While people are more commonly told to find ways to lower their blood pressure, having low blood pressure (hypotension) can also be the result of an underlying medical condition and in turn cause symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, and fainting.
Low blood pressure is typically not cause for concern and can be managed relatively easily with medication or lifestyle changes.
In this article I’ll discuss ways to raise your blood pressure and maintain healthy readings in the future.
What is Low Blood Pressure
Hypotension occurs when the blood your arteries is pumping flows at a lower than average rate.
A blood pressure reading lower than 90/60 mm Hg is what qualifies as hypotension; for perspective, a reading between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg is what’s considered normal.
Some people have low blood pressure all the time due to genetic factors; for these individuals, it’s usually not a concern.
Other people experience a sudden drop in blood pressure or have low blood pressure that may be linked to a health problem.
Hypotension is often asymptomatic, which is why it’s common for it to go unnoticed.
When present, symptoms of low blood pressure may include:
- Blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Lack of concentration
- Unusual thirst
- Chest pain
How to Raise Low Blood Pressure
- Stay hydrated: Drinking more water can help increase blood volume and prevent dehydration, both of which will combat hypotension. You should drink roughly two liters (or eight 8-ounce glasses) of water a day to keep up with the normal rate of fluid loss and prevent dehydration.
- Eat more salt: Though we’re often told to lower our sodium intake, increasing your sodium intake moderately can help raise blood pressure. Good sources of salt include olives, cottage cheese, and canned soup or tuna. Another option is to add table salt or sea salt to your meals.
- Prioritize some foods over others: Limit high-carb foods and introduce more foods rich in vitamin B12 and folate.
- Drink a caffeinated beverage: Caffeinated foods and beverages like coffee, tea, and dark chocolate cause an increase in heart rate and a temporary spike in blood pressure—especially for people who do not typically consume them.
- Wear compression stockings: Compression stockings or socks are commonly suggested to relieve the pain and swelling of varicose veins, but they can also help reduce the pooling of blood in your lower legs, shifting it elsewhere.
- Take medication: Depending on the cause of your hypotension, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you manage it. The most common medications used to treat the condition include Fludrocortisone (Florinef) and Midodrine (ProAmatine and Orvaten).
- Change your body movements and positioning: If you start to experience symptoms while standing, you can cross one leg over the other and squeeze your thighs, or put one foot on an elevated surface and lean as far forward as possible. These moves encourage blood flow from your legs to your heart.
Managing Blood Pressure
In addition to short-term fixes, there are lifestyle and habit changes you can introduce to help manage your blood pressure long-term.
- Get thyroid levels checked: When the thyroid gland produces too few hormones it can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism which in turn can cause a heart condition called bradycardia. Your doctor can conduct a simple blood test called a TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test that measures whether your thyroid gland is functioning normally or not.
- Check blood sugar: If you are diabetic, the nerve sensors in your arteries that monitor blood pressure may not work as effectively—especially if you have poor blood sugar control—making them more prone to a drastic drop in blood pressure.
- Monitor blood pressure at home: Home blood pressure monitoring may be useful if you have certain conditions and can help your doctor determine whether treatments are working.
Several lifestyle changes may improve low blood pressure, including:
- Eat small, low-carb meals: While it’s true that diet can affect blood pressure, so can the timing of your meals. When you eat a large meal, it takes your body a lot more energy to digest it, which can cause a significant drop in blood pressure. Changing your eating habits by consuming low-carb meals in small portions more frequently throughout the day can help you maintain a normal blood pressure.
- Maintain a balanced diet: As with general health, some changes to your diet may help improve your blood pressure. Limit high-carb foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread. Introduce more foods rich in vitamin B12 such as eggs, chicken, fish like salmon and tuna, and low-fat dairy products. It may be helpful to introduce more foods rich in folate such as asparagus, broccoli, liver, and legumes such as lentils and chickpeas.
- Exercise regularly: Set a goal for 30-60 minutes a day of exercise that raises your heart rate and resistance exercises two or three days a week. You should avoid exercising in hot, humid conditions.
- Avoid alcohol: While alcohol can raise blood pressure, it can also dehydrate you, which has the effect of lowering your blood pressure by reducing your blood volume. If you have low blood pressure, you should avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and never use alcohol as a way to treat low blood pressure since it can cause people with low blood pressure to develop high blood pressure.
When to See a Medical Provider
You should contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of low blood pressure after meals such as frequent, unexplained fainting or dizziness.
Also contact your healthcare provider if you have:
- Black or maroon stools
- Chest pain
- Fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
When you visit, your doctor will most likely take your blood pressure reading and may perform blood, urine, or imaging tests to determine if you have hypotension.
How K Health Can Help
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Frequently Asked Questions
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