Low blood pressure: what you need to know

Symptoms, causes and self-help advice to follow

Taking blood pressure

If you often feel dizzy, especially when you stand or bend to pick something up, you may have low blood pressure. While it's often nothing to worry about, having hypotension - to give its medical name - can be a problem if it causes you to faint or have a fall when dizzy.

See also: Seven reasons you feel dizzy

See also: How to spot the signs of a mini-stroke

If you haven't had your blood pressure checked for a while, it's worth seeing a doctor or checking your numbers at home using a blood pressure monitor. There are many things that can cause dizziness and fainting – such as an inner ear problem, thyroid disease, anaemia, hormonal changes and circulation issues for example – so you'll want to talk through all of your symptoms.

Symptoms of low blood pressure
As well as light-headedness and fainting, low blood pressure can cause blurred vision, palpitations, confusion, nausea and general weakness.

Why causes low blood pressure?
Many things affect blood pressure – from genetics to your age, illnesses and any medication you're taking, to environmental factors, such as the time of day and temperature.

Your blood pressure may vary depending on what you're doing. If you're relaxed, you're likely to have a lower blood pressure. It's also lower if you've eaten recently (as blood is diverted to the stomach to digest food), at night and in warm weather.

If you exercise regularly and are healthy, your blood pressure will be low when you're resting.

Self-help advice
If your blood pressure is naturally on the low side, you don't normally need to be treated unless it's causing you problems, such as frequent dizziness or recurrent falls.

If you have low blood pressure, you may want to:

Stand up gradually, particularly when getting up during the night or first thing in the morning. Stretch in bed to get your blood moving or cross and uncross your legs if you're sitting and about to stand.

Avoid standing for long periods of time.

Wear support or compression stockings. These provide extra pressure to your feet, legs and tummy, which can help improve circulation and increase blood pressure. However, talk to your doctor before wearing them, as compression stockings aren't suitable for everyone.

Drink more fluids. Dehydration can cause low blood pressure – so make sure you sip water throughout the day. Drinking more fluid will increase the volume of your blood, raising your blood pressure.

If you have low blood pressure, it may help to add more salt to your diet. Your doctor can advise how much salt to add or whether to take salt tablets. Only add extra salt to your diet on the advice of a medical professional.

Eat smaller meals more often. This can help to prevent low blood pressure after eating. You may find it helps to sit still or lie down for a while after eating a meal.