Have Low Blood Pressure? Read This BEFORE You Exercise

Working Out with Low Blood Pressure: Is It Safe?

(AscendHealthy.com) – With all the health talk surrounding high blood pressure, or hypertension, one might consider it a blessing to have low blood pressure, or hypotension. That’s not necessarily the case.

Low blood pressure carries its own risks, especially during physical activity, which often naturally causes a decrease in blood pressure.

If anyone knows or suspects they have hypotension, they should visit their primary health care provider before beginning a new exercise regimen, and if working with a physical trainer, they should notify them of the condition.

What is low blood pressure?

Low blood pressure is defined as the condition when the blood pressure drops below 90/60, according to Physiopedia. Hypotension often is undiagnosed because it does not present any symptoms. However, it can become a problem if the heart is not able to pump enough oxygenated blood to organs to keep them functioning correctly.

A common subtype of hypotension is orthostatic hypotension or postural hypotension. This occurs when the blood pressure drops suddenly when standing from sitting, squatting, or lying down. Orthostatic hypotension’s symptoms include nausea, dizziness or light-headedness, feeling faint or fainting, confusion, weakness, feeling tired, or blurry vision, according to Michigan State University Extension. Postural hypotension is suspected as a leading cause of falls in older adults.

The primary causes of low blood pressure are medications such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics; heart diseases such as arrhythmias, valvular regurgitation or stenosis, diastolic or systolic heart failure; diabetes; aging; and pregnancy.

How low blood pressure affects exercise

During exercise, muscles help pump blood back to the heart, and blood vessels expand to help this occur. After exercise, blood vessels are slow to contract though muscles no longer are pumping the blood as fast, so blood pressure falls, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Also, blood vessels near the skin remain dilated to help the body release heat.

In people with normal blood pressure, this brief time does not present a problem, though it can be with people who already have low blood pressure. This situation can lead to similar symptoms as mentioned with postural hypertension, such as faintness, dizziness, nausea, and confusion.

Entering a hot shower or sauna will add to the problem as high temperatures also cause blood pressure to drop.

People with low blood pressure should be watched for symptoms immediately after exercise and should take more time to cool down and return to a more normal blood pressure before showering or entering a sauna or hot tub.

How to avoid low blood pressure issues while exercising

A few steps taken before exercising can help those with low blood pressure exercise more safely:

  • Drink plenty of water: Drinking a lot of fluids helps keep blood volume at a normal level.
  • Use more salt: Sodium helps the body retain fluids so blood volume stays higher.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Heavy meals divert blood flow to the digestive system, leaving less blood flow for other organs.
  • Drink coffee: 200-250 mg of coffee (about two cups) decreases hypotension.

Ideas to consider while exercising to increase safety:

  • Do all exercises standing.
  • Group floor or sitting exercises together and take extra time before standing to do exercise.
  • Hold onto something when you move from sitting to standing.
  • Avoid exercises where the head is below the heart and ones that require fast movements between positions, such as jump squats or burpees.
  • Wear compression socks as this will keep blood from pooling in the lower legs after exercise.

Again, it’s important to consult a primary care health provider before adopting a new workout routine, and if working with a trainer, be sure they know about any issues with low blood pressure.

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