Low Blood Pressure but High Pulse: What Does it Mean?

By Terez Malka, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 13, 2022

Your heart, the strongest muscle in your body, is working around the clock to pump blood around your entire body.

When your heart beats, your blood pressure rises, pumping blood by pushing it against the walls of your arteries — tubular structures that carry blood to different parts of the body.

The amount of blood your heart pumps through your body’s arteries as well as the amount of resistance to this blood flow is what determines your blood pressure.

If you have ever been told your blood pressure was low, this means that blood flows through your blood vessels at lower than average pressures.

While this is not necessarily a cause for concern, it can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health condition requiring medical treatment.

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What is Hypotension?

Hypertension is high blood pressure that affects close to half of the U.S. adult population.

Hypotension, or low blood pressure, is the opposite and is less common.

When you visit a healthcare provider, they will measure your blood pressure using a monitor around your bicep.

This monitor will determine your blood pressure in two numbers: systolic and diastolic, and the numbers are millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Healthy blood pressure, or “normal blood pressure” in adults usually falls close to 120/80 mm Hg or lower.

Low blood pressure is qualified as a measurement lower than 90/60 mm Hg. 

You may experience sudden drops in blood pressure when rising from a lying down or sitting position to standing.

This is referred to as postural hypotension or orthostatic hypotension.

Standing for long periods of time can also cause another form of low blood pressure known as neurally mediated, or vasovagal, hypotension. 

Some people have a lower blood pressure normally and this is not a cause for concern and does not need any treatment if it is not causing any symptoms.

Low Blood Pressure with High Pulse: What it Means

Low blood pressure coupled with a high pulse can happen momentarily when we stand up and in this case does not typically signify a health issue to be concerned about.

It is more common in older adults but can also occur in younger, healthy individuals. 

Causes of Low Blood Pressure with High Pulse

Having low blood pressure can sometimes lead to a higher pulse.

If your blood pressure is low, your heart may have to work extra hard to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the organs, resulting in a high pulse.

Low blood pressure with a high pulse could indicate an underlying medical condition or lifestyle factor.

According to The American Heart Association, hypotension coupled with a high pulse can be a symptom of the following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Heart problems such as heart attack and heart failure
  • Endocrine problems, such as hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease
  • Severe infection (septic shock)
  • Allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
  • Dehydration
  • Alcohol use
  • A medication side effect

What Causes Hypotension?

Some people have low blood pressure all the time.

Their pressure is lower than average but they are in good health.

For others, a sudden drop in blood pressure or a decline in blood pressure that stays low could indicate a health problem.

Our blood pressure is regulated by many systems of the body including our hormones, nerves, and organs. 

Our nervous system, which triggers a “fight-or-flight” response in times of perceived danger, can communicate to the heart to increase or decrease blood pressure.

The following diseases and conditions can cause hypotension:

  • Problems with the autonomic nervous system, such as in Parkinson’s disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Heart problems
  • Certain neurological disorders
  • Dehydration
  • Prolonged bed rest 
  • Burns or excessive heat
  • Large varicose veins 

Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs may cause low blood pressure through negative drug interactions.

This is particularly likely with high blood pressure medications such as diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

Some antidepressants and drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction and Parkinson’s disease can also cause hypotension.

Hypotension Symptoms 

If you experience a sudden drop in blood pressure accompanied by the following symptoms, you should consult with your doctor or medical provider immediately:

In some cases, hypotension could indicate that your body is in shock.

Signs and symptoms that your body may be in shock include:

  • Clammy, or cold skin
  • Paleness
  • Confusion, especially in older people
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Rapid and weak pulse 
  • Fainting or feeling very faint

Low Blood Pressure Treatment

Low blood pressure with no signs or symptoms or with very mild symptoms rarely requires treatment.

Explain any symptoms you have to your healthcare provider and what medications you are taking.

You may need to change, stop, or lower the dosage if your blood pressure is being affected by the medication.

Maintaining Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

Eating a clean, balanced diet and being active can help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Consider adopting a DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to create a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Lower your consumption of sodium, quit smoking, cut back on caffeine, and limit your alcohol intake to improve your health. 

Consider the following lifestyle changes in conjunction with a balanced diet to help decrease symptoms associated with low blood pressure.

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Make sure to eat frequent meals and snacks that contain a small amount of salt
  • Exercise regularly to promote blood flow
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to hot showers, spas, baths, or saunas
  • Avoid standing still for long periods of time
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When to See a Doctor or Healthcare Provider

While it is completely normal to have momentary low blood pressure as a result of standing up suddenly or other daily activities, you should speak to a healthcare provider if you experience any dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, or other symptoms.

Your provider will measure your blood pressure using a monitor and consider your medical history, age, specific symptoms, and any other conditions such as diet, stress, or other medications that could be impacting your blood pressure.

If you are taking medications and notice symptoms of hypotension, visit your provider to discuss stopping, changing, or lowering the dose of the medication.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor or nurse practitioner in minutes.

K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when your blood pressure is low and your pulse is high?
Having low blood pressure can cause your heart to work extra hard to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the organs, resulting in a high pulse. This can occur normally when changing positions or if you are slightly dehydrated, or can be a sign of more serious medical conditions if accompanied by other symptoms.
How do you treat low blood pressure and high heart rate?
Treating low blood pressure and high heart rate requires figuring out what is causing these symptoms. Treatment may include staying well-hydrated, eating frequently, adjusting your medications, and treating any underlying medical conditions.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Terez Malka, MD

Dr. Terez Malka is a board-certified pediatrician and emergency medicine physician.