Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, can be caused by many factors, including underlying medical conditions, serious illnesses, and medications.
While having low blood pressure occasionally can be normal, when blood pressure readings are consistently low or you experience concerning symptoms such as fainting, blurred vision, and lightheadedness, you should reach out to a healthcare provider right away.
For occasionally low blood pressure, there are some lifestyle changes you can make and medications you can take to increase your blood pressure, but the solution may be as simple as a trip to the grocery store.
In this article, I’ll tell you which foods to enjoy and which to avoid to help raise your blood pressure.
What is Low Blood Pressure?
When the blood pumped through the arteries encounters lower than normal pressure, it’s called hypotension, or low blood pressure.
A reading lower than 100/70 mm Hg is considered low, a blood pressure of approximately 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal, and anything above 120/80 mm Hg is considered high.
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 serious health problem.
Low blood pressure is divided into several types—orthostatic, postprandial, and neurally mediated—which are differentiated by their causes.
Both lifestyle changes and medication can help manage low blood pressure.
What to Eat for Low Blood Pressure
As with many conditions, your diet can have a significant impact on your blood pressure.
Staying hydrated can be a big help when it comes to increasing and maintaining a normal blood pressure.
In addition to drinking water, adding slowly digestible foods like whole grains, beans, protein, and healthy oils can keep your blood pressure up after a meal.
Here are some foods you can pick up during your next trip to the grocery store to help increase your blood pressure levels:
Foods Rich in Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps produce healthy red blood cells and also helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, a blood condition that makes people tired and weak.
Red blood cells can regulate blood pressure by releasing the chemical ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which signals the blood vessels to expand.
Significant megaloblastic anemia can lead to blood levels that are too low for normal functioning, leading to low blood pressure.
Some foods rich in vitamin B12 include:
- Fish like salmon and tuna
- Low-fat dairy products.
Foods Rich in Folate (Vitamin B9)
Folate is a B-vitamin that is naturally present in many foods.
Your body needs folate to help your cells divide, creating more red blood cells and preventing severe anemia.
Some foods rich in folate include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens
- Orange juice
- Beef liver
- Legumes such as lentils and chickpeas
Foods That Contain Caffeine
Caffeinated foods and beverages cause an increase in heart rate and a temporary spike in blood pressure—especially for people who do not typically eat or drink them.
If you do not normally consume a lot of caffeine, these should be taken with caution.
Some foods and beverages that contain caffeine include:
- Some sodas and energy drinks
Foods high in sodium content can elevate your blood pressure.
When you eat a lot of salt, which contains sodium, your body retains extra water to “wash” it out of your system.
The added water can put stress on your heart and blood vessels—this is why people with high blood pressure are often directed to closely watch their salt intake.
For people with low blood pressure, a bit of extra salt combined with a healthy diet may help, though keep in mind that constant high salt intake can cause significant health problems.
Some foods high in sodium content include:
- Cottage cheese
- Canned soup
- Canned tuna
Timing of meals is also important to consider.
Large meals require your body to use more energy for digestion, which can cause your blood pressure to drop a bit.
Changing your eating habits by consuming low-carb meals in small portions more frequently throughout the day, as well as staying hydrated, can help you maintain a normal blood pressure.
What to Avoid for Low Blood Pressure
When it comes to food and lower blood pressure, rapidly digested carbohydrates can lead to sudden drops, so it’s recommended to limit or avoid foods like:
- Sugary beverages
While alcohol can raise blood pressure, it can also dehydrate you, which lowers 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.
It can cause people with low blood pressure to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) in addition to many other adverse effects on your physical and mental health.
When to See a Medical Provider
You should see a doctor 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:
- Stools that are black or deep red
- 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 and what the causes may be.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypotension and are actively making lifestyle and dietary changes to increase your blood pressure, you should monitor your blood pressure at home and report these readings to your doctor regularly.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Eating can cause low blood pressure. (2020)
DASH Eating Plan. (2021).
Vitamin B12. (2021).
Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure?. (2021).