High and Low Blood Pressure: Equally Dangerous

Mention to friends or co-workers that you have a problem with your blood pressure, and virtually 100% of those people will assume that you’re referring to high blood pressure, also called hypertension; 20% of Americans suffer from hypertension.

This is a chronic, life-threatening condition that, if left untreated, will very likely result in stroke, heart attack, or kidney failure. However, most people never consider that low blood pressure is equally as dangerous as high blood pressure.

How is High and Low Blood Pressure Detected?

Every time you visit your physician, a nurse will take your “vital signs;” pulse, temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. High and low blood pressure is identified with an instrument called a “sphygmomanometer.” There are two measurements that describe blood pressure: the “top” number is your systolic pressure that occurs when your heart contracts to pump out blood.

The “bottom” number is your diastolic pressure that occurs when your heart relaxes to allow blood to flow back into it. A normal adult blood pressure reading is about 120/80. If either you have either high or low blood pressure, it is cause for concern.

What is High and Low Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is called “hypertension,” while low blood pressure is called “hypotension.” High and low blood pressure has vastly different causes; hypertension is caused by heredity, excessive salt and alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and obesity. With lifestyle and diet changes along with anti-hypertensive medications, high blood pressure can be controlled and returned to a normal rate before it becomes life-threatening.

Hypotension, or low blood pressure, mostly occurs in older adults, especially if you’re already taking medication for hypertension. High and low blood pressure is often inter-related. Your treatment for high blood pressure may be very successful in reducing your systolic pressure.

But the price for this success may be a dangerous lowering of your diastolic pressure. There are two symptoms of low blood pressure: dizziness and loss of consciousness. These symptoms can be dangerous primarily due to falls when you pass out on your feet. High and low blood pressure does not occur at the same time.

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is often caused by over-medication for high blood pressure. One treatment, then, is to decrease your dose of hypertension medication. If your diastolic and systolic pressures remain within normal limits, problem solved. Both high and low blood pressure can result from side effects of other medications.

Your physician should evaluate all your medications to determine if this is happening to you. Changing your other medications to different classes and/or doses of drugs may result in another problem solved.

High and low blood pressure can also result from surgical procedures. Some anesthetics and pain medications can dangerously raise or lower your blood pressure. As you recover from surgery, your blood pressure will be carefully monitored. Low blood pressure post-surgery is most often caused by internal bleeding.

To determine if this is the case, you’ll have an ultrasound procedure to pinpoint the area of bleeding so it can be corrected. Hypotension due to post-surgery internal bleeding is one of the risks of any type of surgery. To correct this condition you may require a blood transfusion to raise your diastolic pressure.