Low Blood Pressure: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of the blood against the walls of the blood vessels during and after each beat of the heart. Low blood pressure (hypotension) means that your blood pressure is much lower than normal. Some people, especially young, slim women, may have slightly low blood pressure without symptoms. However, in many people, low blood pressure can cause symptoms such as dizziness or light-headedness. When your blood pressure is too low, your heart, brain, and other organs do not get enough blood.

Low blood pressure can be caused by many things, including heart problems and some medicines. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause your blood pressure to drop, and so can a severe allergic reaction or infection. Another cause is dehydration, which is when your body loses too much fluid.

Treatment for low blood pressure depends on the cause.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Be safe with medicines. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Stand up or get out of bed very slowly to allow your body to adjust.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking increases your risk of heart attack. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Limit alcohol to 3 drinks a day for men and 2 drinks a day for women. Alcohol may interfere with your medicine. In addition, alcohol can make your low blood pressure worse by causing your body to lose water.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.
  • You cannot keep down fluids.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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