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Low & High Blood Pressure Symptoms

Updated February 21, 2019

Both low and high blood pressure can cause a number of serious health problems. Identifying abnormal blood pressure and treating it promptly is an important step in maintaining your overall health.

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What does blood pressure mean?

An individual's blood pressure is a measurement of the force of blood as it presses against artery walls. A blood pressure measurement consists of two numbers: the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is a measurement of the force of blood while the heart is beating. The diastolic pressure reflects the pressure when the heart is relaxing between beats. The two numbers are recorded together, with the systolic pressure measurement, in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), on top and the diastolic number on the bottom. Normal blood pressure for individuals over the age of 18 is considered to be a measurement lower than 120/80 mmHg.

What constitutes low and high blood pressure?

Blood pressures in excess of 130/80 are considered high and can factor largely in a person's risk of developing kidney disease, heart disease or atherosclerosis, as well as increasing the risk of stroke or damage to the eye. Low blood pressure is more difficult to define with measurements alone, since each individual may react to a lowering of blood pressure in a different way. For instance, a person whose blood pressure is normally high may develop symptoms of low blood pressure if the pressure drops, while others may experience no symptoms at the same blood pressure measurement. Because of this, low blood pressure is diagnosed almost solely by characteristic symptoms.

What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?

Low blood pressure symptoms are related to the various organs of the body failing to receive enough blood to function properly. Common symptoms include dizziness and lightheadedness, particularly when standing up from a sitting or lying position, chest pain, increased levels of urea and creatinine in the blood. In the most severe cases, shock can occur.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

One of the most dangerous aspects of high blood pressure is that, in most cases, there are no identifiable symptoms. If an individual with high blood pressure does not realise it early enough, he may suffer from heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, aneurysms and irreversible eye damage. Some people with high blood pressure do experience nausea, dizziness, headaches, and problems with their vision, such as blurring.

What treatments are available for both low and high blood pressure?

Since low blood pressure can be caused by a number of factors, including certain medications, heart disease and excessive blood loss, the treatment must be matched to the cause to be effective. Hydration, blood transfusions and adjustment or alteration of blood pressure-lowering medications may be used as treatments, depending on the cause of the decrease in blood pressure. High blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle changes (exercising, losing weight and controlling the diet), blood pressure medications, natural remedies, or with surgery in extraordinary cases.

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About the Author

Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.

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