Maintaining a healthy blood pressure level is an important component of good health. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg is considered by most doctors to be ideal. Most people who have issues with blood pressure suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure.
However, for some people low blood pressure or hypotension can cause a variety of symptoms which include dizziness, fainting or even death. As you can imagine, this could be a dangerous situation for a professional truck driver.
It is widely accepted that people with a systolic (upper number) blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or less or diastolic (lower number) blood pressure of 60 mm Hg or less have low blood pressure.
In many cases, low blood pressure is not a serious medical condition. However, consistently low readings or blood pressure that suddenly drops may indicate a more serious underlying issue.
There are several causes of hypotension. Dehydration is a common cause of hypotension among athletes and young children. This occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in. Due to this, the volume of blood decreases, which in turn reduces blood pressure.
Similarly, losing a lot of blood due to injury or internal bleeding may lead to a decrease in blood pressure. Pregnancy is a common cause of hypotension in women. The is due to the rapid expansion of a women’s circulatory system during pregnancy. In most cases, blood pressure returns back to normal shortly after delivery.
Cardiac problems as well as endocrine issues such as thyroid conditions may also lead to hypotension. Finally, it is important to note that some medications may temporarily reduce blood pressure.
The signs and symptoms of hypotension vary from person to person. In addition to dizziness and fainting, people may experience difficulty with concentration, blurred vision, nausea and fatigue. In more severe cases of hypotension, symptoms such as cold, pale skin and rapid, shallow breathing may be present.
It is critical to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time.
If your doctor suspects that you are experiencing low blood pressure, he or she may order a series of tests to help identify the underlying cause.
Blood tests are used to gain information about the overall health of the patient such as sugar or iron levels. An ECG may be performed in order to determine if there are any irregularities in the heart rhythm or electrical activity. In addition, a cardiac stress test may be recommended.
In most cases of mild hypotension, medical treatment is not required. However, in more severe cases, treatment of hypotension usually depends on the underlying cause.
Once the cause is determined, your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment options. As in the case of dehydration, treatment could be as simple as increasing water intake. In other cases, lifestyle modifications such as increasing salt intake, eating smaller, low-carb meals or wearing compression stockings are necessary. Medications may be required to treat more significant underlying medical conditions.
Until next month, drive safely.
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.