High blood pressure is often seen as a part of growing older. The risk of developing essential hypertension, high blood pressure due to unknown causes, increases after the age of 40 years. Most older adults are therefore using chronic high blood pressure medication for decades thereafter. However, what is not often known is that the elderly are at risk of low blood pressure which is known as hypotension. Using high blood pressure medication while suffering with low blood pressure can be dangerous. It is therefore important that every senior is checked regularly for changes in blood pressure, among other cardiovascular disorders that start with age.
Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure where the systolic reading is below 90 mmHg and diastolic reading is below 60 mm Hg. Common symptoms of hypotension are dizziness, lethargy and fainting spells. Various medical and surgical conditions lead to symptoms of hypotension like heart problems and hormonal imbalances. In the elderly, side effects of medication is another common reason for hypotension.
Mild hypotension often does not cause any symptoms. It is only when the blood pressure drops to a point where the different parts of the body are not receiving enough oxygen that the symptoms become evident. This includes :
Usually hypotension is also associated with symptoms of the underlying cause.
Untreated hypotension leads to number of complications like :
Normal blood pressure is between 100 to 140 mm of Hg for systolic pressure and 60 to 90 mm of Hg for diastolic blood pressure. With advancing age the normal blood pressure, and specifically the systolic pressure, increases but within a certain limit. Blood pressure is determined by two factors contractility of the heart and resistance by the peripheral arteries. Hypotension arises when the heart does not contract hard enough or if the arteries are wide and therefore providing less resistances. Low blood volume can also cause hypotension.
In seniors, some of the possible causes of hypotension includes :
There are different types of hypertension which may be related to specific events.
The treatment of low blood pressure needs to be directed at the underlying cause. It may involves measures such as :
The elderly may experience episodes associated with bradycardia (low heart rate) and if it cannot be effectively managed with medication, surgery for a pacemaker may be warranted.