Low Blood Pressure & Exercise

By James Rada, Jr.

Given the general public concern about high blood pressure, low blood pressure would seem to be a desirable condition. However, low blood pressure or hypotension presents its own health problems, such as fainting or dizziness. These symptoms can even occur if a person experiences low blood pressure temporarily. While exercise is full of benefits to an individual, it can also cause temporary low blood pressure.

How Low?

Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80. Low pressure is looked at differently. If either the systolic (upper number) number or the diastolic (lower number) number is low, you are considered to have low blood pressure. The guidelines for low blood pressure are having a systolic number lower than 90 or a diastolic number lower than 60.

Exercise and Low Blood Pressure

Exercise can cause sudden changes in blood pressure. A change of 20 points in your blood pressure can cause you dizziness or even fainting. This happens because for that moment the brain isn’t getting enough blood. Athletes and those who exercise regularly tend to have lower blood pressure and slower heart rate. So a sudden drop of 20 points could easily put an athlete into the realm of low blood pressure.

Orthostatic Hypotension

The type of low blood pressure that occurs during exercise is called orthostatic hypotension. It typically occurs when there is a sudden change in posture, for instance, when the head rises from below the heart. It can also happen from a supine position when the head is level with the heart. When you change position, circulation isn’t forceful enough to continue getting blood to the head and you experience dizziness or worse, faint. When this happens, sit down or lean against something until the dizziness passes.

Cautionary Exercises

Some of the exercises that place your body in a position where you can experience orthostatic hypotension are: bench press, sit-ups, bent-over rows, reverse flies, aerobic dance, yoga poses, lunges and squats. Also, if you stand still after a cardio exercise like a treadmill, blood pools in the legs. You body needs the assistance of the leg muscles to help pump the blood back to the head after the cardio exercise.

Symptoms

When working out, you need to be careful about sudden changes in your position. Here are some of the symptoms of low blood pressure: dizziness or lightheadedness, fainting (syncope), lack of concentration, blurred vision, nausea, clammy skin, rapid or shallow breathing, fatigue or thirst. Since some of these symptoms are also experienced during workouts so watch to see if the symptom is more severe than usual.

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