If You Have Low Blood Pressure
Hypotension is a very common problem in the Spanish population. It is a chronic disease whose prevalence is at 40% and that entails other relevant health problems if not treated in time.
Everyone knows what they have to eat to keep tension at bay and that there are medications for their treatment, yet few know what hypotension is. There are no studies on its prevalence and the general population is unaware if this disorder has short and long-term consequences, if it can or should be treated, or what foods help to cope with it.
Even so, many people suffer from it daily or occasionally and do not know what they have to do to prevent it or how to act in the event of hypotension. As Montse Iracheta, a pharmacist and member of the Food and Nutrition Department of the Barcelona College of Pharmacists, explains, hypotension “is the state a person is in when blood pressure is much lower than normal.”
What is having normal blood pressure? “The reading of blood pressure is represented by two numbers that are read one above the other,” explains Francisco Maldonado, a graduate in Food Biology, Science and Technology with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and technical director of Nutripharma.
“The top number (systolic pressure) measures blood pressure when the heart beats, and the bottom number (diastolic pressure) measures blood pressure between beats. A normal value is 120 / 80mmHg or slightly lower,” he explains. “If the person has an arterial value of 90/60 or less, it is considered low blood pressure or hypotension.”
There are people who tend to have lower than optimal blood pressure and who can be defined as “patients with low blood pressure”, although, according to Iracheta, “it is normal to consider hypotension as a specific event, which must be corrected to be able to carry a normal life” Depending on when the blood pressure drops occur, there are three types of hypotension, according to Iracheta:
Orthostatic: it is produced by sudden changes in body position (when going from lying down to standing). It usually lasts a few seconds or minutes and can cause fainting. Postprandial orthostatic: occurs after eating and most often affects older adults, people with high blood pressure, and Parkinson’s patients. Neural: occurs when standing for a long time, causing dizziness, fainting or stomach upset. This type affects to a greater extent young adults and children. Serious: This is caused by a sudden loss of blood, a serious infection, a heart attack, or a severe allergic reaction.
To identify if a person is suffering from a drop in blood pressure, it is important to pay attention to the following symptoms: “Dizziness or light headedness, fainting, blurred vision, lack of concentration, nausea, fatigue and lack of concentration”, describes Anna Bach- Faig, Food member of the Barcelona COF. If hypotension is extreme, alert, “it can be life-threatening.” In these cases, the symptoms would be: “Confusion, cold, pale and clammy skin, fast and deep breathing and a weak and fast pulse.”
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As Maldonado points out, “healthy people who have a greater tendency to hypotension are people who are athletes or who carry out physical activity regularly, especially long-distance endurance aerobic sports (triathlons, marathons, cycling, mountain trails, etc. .) “. This type of athletes, due to their high energy expenditure, “have a low muscle mass, so that cardiac output decreases, something that is usually related to this hypotension.”
The same occurs in older people. According to the pharmacist, “with age, when you lose muscle mass due to a normal physiological process called sarcopenia, your cardiac output also decreases and with it there is a greater probability of hypotension.” People who are ill or have certain pathologies “may also be more likely to have hypotension after surgery, receive chemotherapy or if they have anemia and / or heart conditions.” Another major cause of hypotension is usually dehydration, a lack of minerals in the diet, and heat.
In addition to these people, those taking certain medications that can influence blood pressure are also at greater risk of lowering blood pressure. As Bach-Faig details, “People who take drugs, such as alpha-blockers, diuretics, or beta-blockers, are at increased risk for low blood pressure.” Other medications, such as “antidepressants or those indicated to treat erectile dysfunction, are also at higher risk of causing hypotension,” he warns, noting that “the latter are at higher risk when combined with nitroglycerin.”
A healthy and balanced diet is one of the fundamental pillars for patients with hypertension. Going with salt or fats can lead to an increase in blood pressure values and cardiovascular problems in the short and long term. In the case of hypotension, diet also influences, but hydration does even more. “Adequate daily fluid intake, especially mineral water, is vital to avoid hypotension,” recalls Maldonado.
For this reason, Bach-Faig advises “to drink water between meals”. According to a study “conducted in patients with severe orthostatic hypotension due to autonomic failure, blood pressure after a meal decreased less in patients who drank water during meals than in patients who did not.”
In addition, another study “found that drinking water before exercise in the supine position improved orthostatic tolerance after exercise.” As stated by the vocal of Food, “the effect of water is greater in the hour after ingestion.” Because many brownouts occur when you rejoin after long periods of sleep, “some doctors advise keeping a jug of water by the bed and drinking quickly before getting out of bed in the morning, to prevent its occurrence.”
What’s happening with the salt? Should the intake be increased? “Not at all,” says Maldonado. In fact, “excess salt and fat could cause the opposite, that is, hypertension, hypertriglyceridemia or hypercholesterolemia”, in addition to “increasing fluid retention”. According to this, he advises “a moderate consumption of salt added to food”.
It should also be borne in mind that, in and of itself, recalls Maldonado, “foods such as fish or nuts, tend to be high in sodium, so only occasionally,” may be lightly seasoned with salt (a pinch) breakfast, lunch and dinner. ” With regard to fats, Maldonado advises the consumption of those “that are healthy, either those from animals, such as blue fish, and vegetables, such as nuts, avocado, coconut, extra virgin olive oil or some seeds like flaxseeds rich in omega 3 “. In this way, according to the pharmacist, “we will regulate the tension without causing the damage that saturated fats cause.”
Just as there are foods that help lower tension, there are also others that help raise it. As Maldonado points out, the recommendations for each one would be:
Sea Salt: in these cases a limit of 5gr of salt per day divided between the main meals of the day, which is equivalent to one heaped teaspoon, could be recommended.
Salted fish: Another good source of salt in a healthy way, would be to take this option, such as anchovies, mojama or roe. Whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain breakfast cereals). Nuts without salt, since the dried fruit itself already contains sodium in itself, at a rate of 5-6 nuts a day or 15-20 almonds daily.
Vegetables daily and as varied as possible. Coffee or tea as a short-term increase in tension due to its caffeine and theine content.
Cocoa: since the shell of the coco is rich in theobromine, which among its functions is to be stimulating. But be careful, try to make it as pure as possible so that it contains the least fat and sugar possible. A couple of ounces of pure chocolate in the middle of the morning or at night would improve hypotension.
Licorice: It is rich in glycyrrhine, a calcium salt that helps to increase tension. It can be taken in the form of an infusion, or in the form of a stick or root (palodú), you should avoid taking it in the form of a goody.
Cheese: like fresh or burgos type. In this case, the normal one will be chosen. Those cured for their high caloric power and high content of saturated fat should be avoided.
Serrano ham: all sausages are usually high in salt, but also high in fat, with the exception of serrano ham, if possible Iberian, it is usually low in saturated fat and high in salt, so it would be a good option for increasing tension in a healthy way. In the case of a person who has suffered a drop in tension, action should be taken “by laying the person down and placing the feet up at a 45-degree angle,” advises Bach-Faig. “If the person is conscious, water, a little salt, tea, coffee, chocolate, licorice or a cola will be provided. This is advisable because it contains sugar, which will help restore blood pressure.”