Low blood pressure, known medically as hypotension, can affect anyone but its impact on your health is usually not serious.
beats (systolic blood pressure) and when it is at rest (diastolic). You are considered to have low blood pressure if it is 90/60 (systolic/diastolic) or lower.
Unlike with high blood pressure (hypertension) If you are diagnosed with hypotension you are not considered at higher risk of developing suffering a cardiac condition such as peripheral arterial disease, stroke (cerebrovascular accident), coronary heart disease or heart attack (myocardial infarction). Indeed, typically the lower your blood pressure the lower the chance of you developing such cardiac conditions.
If you have low blood pressure you may feel lightheaded, nauseous, unsteady, feel generally weak, suffer blurred vision or become confused. These sensations are temporary, usually subsiding within a few minutes or less.
These symptoms may be triggered when you stand up or change position. This is known as postural hypotension and is more likely to affect people as they grow older. This is also true of postprandial hypotension which occurs after eating. This is because digestion requires the heart to work harder – to increase its rate – in order to distribute higher volumes of blood to the intestines.
Hypotension can be an indicator of a healthy lifestyle. Taking regular exercise and avoiding stress can help you achieve a healthy low blood pressure. Your blood pressure may also fall after eating, when you sleep and when you are warm. Hypotension becomes more common with age.
However low blood pressure can also be caused by other health conditions such as coronary heart disease, a heart attack, anaemia, diabetes and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Clearly significant loss of blood through injury will also cause your blood pressure to fall as can various forms of shock.
Some medications can also cause hypotension. These include treatments for high blood pressure such as alpha blockers, beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). Others include antidepressants and diuretics.
Finally, if your adrenal glands are not functioning correctly this can cause a hormonal deficiency which in turn may lower your blood pressure.
Naturally low blood pressure is often an indicator of good health so you would not normally want to prevent it. However, if you suffer symptoms of hypotension you should tell your GP. Many of the causes of low blood pressure are unavoidable, such as simply ageing. Others, such as the use of prescribed medications, may mean your blood pressure needs to be closely monitored.
You can also suffer hypotension as a result of other medical conditions such as anaemia, Addison’s disease and diabetes. Treatment for these conditions can relieve your symptoms.
If you are suffering symptoms of hypotension then private health insurance may cover diagnostic tests. Normally though you will need to simply have your blood pressure taken by your GP or other suitably qualified medical professional. Other diagnostic procedures that may be covered include tilt-table tests in which blood pressure is measured when the body is positioned at different angles.
Blood tests may be required if a hormonal issue is suspected.
However, the most likely benefit of private medical insurance is in aiding you to maintain a healthy low blood pressure. This is because many policies incorporate wellbeing programmes which provide expert advice on how to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Many also offer incentives such as discounted access to gyms and leisure facilities to encourage you to engage in frequent exercise. Aviva, AXA PPP, BUPA and Vitality are among private health insurers offering wellbeing programmes.
Normally you would not need treatment for hypotension. You might though want to see if you can make lifestyle changes which could lessen or eliminate the symptoms. Many private medical insurance schemes included access to online and expert telephone advice which can offer support and advice. If your symptoms are being triggered by medication you are taking for another health condition that is covered by your policy then your consultant may prescribe an alternative or amend your dosage.
Usually though if your hypotension requires medical intervention then this would be arranged via your GP.
Before taking out a health insurance policy you should carefully check what it covers and any limits or restrictions on the treatments you may claim for. Chase Templeton’s dedicated individual private medical insurance experts would be pleased to advise you.