low blood pressure
April 20, 2005 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Does anybody have tips on how to elevate blood pressure?

I have hypotension, and while the doctor says it's not dangerous, it's a little annoying as I feel faint or black out a little every time I stand up. It seems to come and go (possibly with the seasons?) and lately has been more annoying than usual.

Any tips?
posted by stray to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I should add that I eat a lot of salt, in my opinion. Mostly from ramen noodles.
posted by stray at 7:12 PM on April 20, 2005

Get a really stressful job? Drink and smoke a ton?

Sarcasm... Wish I had a real answer for you. Good luck with it.
posted by a3matrix at 7:25 PM on April 20, 2005

A lot of aerobic exercise? Maybe take up running?
posted by xmutex at 7:28 PM on April 20, 2005

Short term you can elevate your blood pressure by drinking water. But that's probably not a full-time solution for you.

There are drugs that will raise your blood pressure. Given the symptoms that you are describing, I'm surprised your doctor has prescribed something for you. (I also have low blood pressure, but not enough to make me black out or get seriously dizzy.)
posted by alms at 7:32 PM on April 20, 2005

I used to have this problem. At the time I was quite underweight. As I aged and widened it went away. You could try eating to gain weight if you are on the thin side, but of course that brings its own issues.
posted by caddis at 7:33 PM on April 20, 2005

Xmutex, I believe exercise lowers your blood pressure.
posted by alms at 7:37 PM on April 20, 2005

All jokes aside, be careful- higher blood pressure is not worth it if it will destroy your body in the process. Plaque is plaque.
posted by michaelkuznet at 8:03 PM on April 20, 2005

To avoid fainting while standing, you could try adapting a technique fighter pilots use to avoid blacking out while pulling Gs (i.e. turning their aircraft in a way that forces blood away from their heads). Before you stand up, forcefully tense up your diaphragm while holding your breath. This will send a rush of blood to your head, preventing the leading cause of fainting.
posted by pmbuko at 10:23 PM on April 20, 2005 [3 favorites]

I've had this as a pregnancy side-effect, and the GP and many people I've talked to have said to just drink water. Drink, drink, drink. Carry a bottle everywhere you go. I don't know anything about how or why or whether it's a long-term solution, but that's what people keep nagging me to do. :)
posted by tracicle at 10:42 PM on April 20, 2005

Licorice root can increase blood pressure. Here's a news article about that, and another article from the Institue of Traditional Medicine (that I know nothing about) concerning other herbs that may increase blood pressure.
posted by xiojason at 11:23 PM on April 20, 2005

Friend of mine remedies her chronically low blood pressure by drinking much coffee.
posted by kindall at 12:03 AM on April 21, 2005

Thanks y'all!
posted by stray at 12:52 AM on April 21, 2005

When you stand up, bend your legs a few times. This forces blood from down below into your central circulation. It is this gravitational pooling of blood in your legs upon standing that is responsible for the drop in pressure and faint feeling. Blood from the extremities requires local muscle contraction to assist it returning to the heart. Moving the legs is also important when standing still for a long time (contradiction in terms?).
I'm not so sure about the 'marked' answer. That may just pop a blood vessel in the eye. And then you'll faint anyway when you stand up because of extremity pooling.
posted by peacay at 1:12 AM on April 21, 2005

I have this kind of hypotension, and I was fainting all the time until it was diagnosed a few years ago. The posters who recommend fluids are on the money. Salt is also a big part of my maintenance, and ramen noodles wouldn't provide nearly enough salt for me. I make a point of eating a salty snack (like salted peanuts or pretzels) every day, and salt my dinner generously. Gatorade is a good way to get salt and fluids at once, though I don't love all the sugar and calories so I usually stick with water. If I forget my salt for more than a couple of days in a row my lightheadedness returns. After nearly four years following this regimen, my blood pressure is still somewhat low. At the hospital last week just before a minor surgical procedure (and so a bit nervous and stressed), it was 100/78.

Oh, and for my type of hypotension at least, caffeine and nicotine make me *more* likely to faint, not less. Since caffeine is a diuretic, it doesn't help you maintain all those fluids you should be drinking diligently. Good luck!
posted by katie at 4:00 AM on April 21, 2005

Bending your legs would do it, if you can stay on your feet that long. Try tightening the muscles of your calves a couple of times before you stand up, it pushes more blood into circulation.
Tightening stomach muscles compresses the great vessels, and pushes more blood into a smaller space, raising the pressure. If you can remember, you can press a pillow into your tummy a few seconds before you stand up. All this is basic hydraulics, if you've got an engineering bent.
The water is increasing the blood volume, but only temporarily. Same principle. Most people with this crave salt or coffee, and self-medicate. (Some folks the coffee raises the blood pressure enough to overcome the diuretic effect.) Whatever works.
This won't hurt you, and probably will tend to go away as you get older. The hazard here is that you'll fall and hit your head. Pick a place to fall in front of each place you sit, and make that place safe. You might give some thought to a little rearranging, if there's a coffee table in front of the couch, lose it and create a carpeted landing site instead of a sharp corner, that sort of thing. If you just get wobbly, but don't actually go down, ignore that part.
The car bothers some people. Besides the pooling, the vibration of the car may relax the muscles in your legs and make it more noticable, you can hang onto the car door a few seconds until you're sure you're stable.
IANAD, but I could show you a few scars on my head.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 4:47 AM on April 21, 2005

Hypotension can be a cause for concern or it can be no big thing. What did the doctor say is the probable cause for the hypotension?

I developed hypotension while on an MAOI because I was cutting tyramine and salt completely out my diet. I went overboard and developed hypotension.

Salt tablets helped. But a more balanced diet in general helps. Moving your limbs frequently throughout the day to encourage blood flow is important. Sometimes wearing tight hose or socks helps to keep blood from pooling in the legs. Staying hydrated is important.

best of luck with that.
posted by jeanmari at 5:21 AM on April 21, 2005

I should add that I eat a lot of salt, in my opinion. Mostly from ramen noodles.

What's your diet like in general? Might be worth increasing protein and vitamins, etc. I think low blood pressure can mean a lot of different things; I have low blood pressure but my doc says it's because I work out regularly & generally a sign of health - my circulatory system is basically more efficient. But if you're weak & tired, your heart might be sluggish as opposed to relaxed, so to speak. I'd say worry less about the particular pace of the heartbeat and more about your energy level & strength.

To increase that, try to eat a more balanced diet. Make sure you have fresh fruits & vegetables, or at least (real, not sugar-water) fruit juice, every day at some point, and try to up the protein & iron a bit. I'm vegetarian, but try to have eggs at least a couple times a week, and tofu, beans, avocado, or nuts every day. Exercise will also increase your energy over time, make you crave protein-rich foods more often, and honestly just make you feel better in general. Also, deep breathing exercises can help by getting more oxygen into your blood, so that even if the course of the blood is leisurely, the deliveries are more useful.

Maybe you already do all that, as you don't specify much about your lifestyle, but if not I'd bet incorporating at least a little more focus toward those issues would be helpful.
posted by mdn at 8:33 AM on April 21, 2005

*nods* Thanks a lot everybody, this is REALLY helpful.
I'd like to avoid changing my diet too much, mostly because I feel I have a decent diet right now. I have about two or three eggs a day, usually some chickpeas and tofu, and a carb dish or two, plus a lot of fruit and usually some vegetables and a multivitamin. And ramen noodles. *grins* I used to a drink a lot of coffee, but have been cutting that out--didn't seem to change my blood pressure much anyway.

Anyway, thanks again. I'll definitely drink more fluids, and try all the leg stuff, and perhaps add some salt to my diet.
posted by stray at 11:29 AM on April 21, 2005

I have the same problem, and I wouldn't recommend you add salt to your diet, actually.

Work on breathing techniques. Before you sit/stand up, take a few very deep breaths. If that makes you dizzy, repeat until it doesn't. Then stand.
posted by honeydew at 7:08 PM on April 24, 2005

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