- According to a new study published in the journal Age and Ageing, there is a link between low blood pressure and early death.
- Low blood pressure isn’t necessarily a cause for concern on its own—but if it’s accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, headache, fatigue, and sometimes blurred vision or nausea, that’s when you should see a doctor.
High blood pressure is a major concern when it comes to your heart health, and it can put you at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But contrary to what you may think, “the lower the better” is not necessarily a mantra to follow, according to new research published in the journal Age and Ageing.
In the study, researchers analysed 415,980 electronic medical records of older adults in England, and they found that people older than 75 years old with low blood pressure—defined here as below 130/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg), although the Mayo Clinic puts it at 90/60 mmHg—had increased mortality rates compared to those with normal blood pressure. This was especially pronounced in people classified as “frail.”
The researchers concluded that it wasn’t low blood pressure that caused the issue, but rather that it acted as an early warning—those adults who were frail and had low blood pressure likely had underlying and undiagnosed health issues that would make them susceptible to early death.
One caveat to the study is that it was done in less-healthy older people, so for those who are younger and/or fitter, the results might not apply, according to senior author Jane Masoli, Ph.D.(c) a clinical doctoral fellow at the University of Exeter in the U.K.
Masoli also said that this was an observational study, which means the researchers didn’t prove that low blood pressure caused early death, only that there was a link.
Even with that said, low blood pressure is a condition to watch—no matter what your age—to make sure it’s not leading to problematic effects.
“If you have low blood pressure, that’s not a cause for concern on its own,” says Natasha Trentacosta, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. “But when that blood pressure is combined with certain symptoms, consider getting checked.”
The most common symptoms are dizziness, light-headedness, headache, fatigue, and sometimes blurred vision or nausea. There is a condition called “orthostatic hypotension,” she added, which means you get a head rush when you change positions suddenly—especially when you go from sitting to standing.
If you do have low blood pressure, consistent exercise may be able to help in the long-term, but Dr. Trentacosta emphasized that you may need to employ different strategies to account for your blood pressure in the short-term. For example, she suggested increasing the intensity level of exercise gradually, and to slow down if symptoms like irregular pulse, dizziness, or unusual weakness occur.
She also recommends building in more time for stretching before and after exercise to help blood pressure regulate more effectively. But most of all, she emphasizes the importance of staying hydrated.
“Dehydration can affect someone with low blood pressure more,” says Dr. Trentacosta. “Definitely drink more water before, during, and after exercise. And if you’re feeling lightheaded, dial down the intensity.”