Signs and Symptoms: Low Blood Pressure Causes and the Correlation with Adrenal Fatigue
A vast amount of medical literature and advice is heavily focused on high blood pressure, but many individuals are also plagued with low blood pressure. It is important to establish from the beginning that low blood pressure is typically a symptom of another condition, such as Adrenal Fatigue, rather than a problem itself. Therefore, one must look at low blood pressure as a piece of a larger picture. What exactly is low blood pressure, and what low blood pressure causes should you look out for?
Blood Pressure and Your Body
Like many processes in the body, blood pressure is multifaceted, and so there are many low blood pressure causes. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries throughout the body. As the heart beats—approximately 60-70 times per minute when the body is at rest—blood is forced through the arteries. The top number in blood pressure readings is called the systolic number; this number is given first. A systolic reading is measured when the heart beats, pumping the blood and causing pressure on the arteries. The bottom number, said second—often after the word “over”—is called diastolic pressure. The diastolic pressure reading measures the pressure between the beats, when the heart is at rest and the blood pressure drops.
Blood pressure changes according to physical activity, which of course can vary from minute to minute. The American Heart Association suggests that normal blood pressure for an adult is approximately 120/80. High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to pressure readings over 140/90. Low blood pressure is termed hypotension and refers to pressure readings lower than 90/60. While it is universally agreed that high blood pressure is not good for you, many live long lives and do well with low blood pressure, so long as they are asymptomatic.
Your body automatically and constantly monitors and attempts to adjust its blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is important to properly provide oxygen and nutrients to the brain and other parts of the body. Thus, if blood flow is too low, the brain and other essential body parts suffer from lack of blood flow, and thus oxygen and nutrients. Numerous body parts and systems work together to regulate blood pressure. The heart, of course, is one of the primary components working to control your blood pressure. Without a healthy heart, it is difficult to maintain an appropriate blood pressure, despite the efforts of other organs to stabilize your blood pressure. The brain, kidneys, and adrenal glands all play a large role in this stabilization and regulation, which is why there are so many different low blood pressure causes.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure is a very important part of survival. The amount of blood pumping through the heart can have a considerable effect on blood pressure. Another important factor is the endothelial wall of the blood vessel constricting and dilating in response to baroreceptors, receptors that are sensitive to blood pressure. Blood pressure must be regulated so closely because it is affected by simple movements such as standing up. This sort of change is largely mediated by the hormone norepinephrine. This important process ensures that we can easily stand up, without feeling dizzy, and subsequently walk and proceed with regular activities without experiencing vertigo. Any time your blood pressure is not regular, the brain suffers from the lack of blood flow. When the brain is unable to function optimally due to decreased blood flow, the entire body suffers.
Low Blood Pressure Causes and Adrenal Fatigue
Low blood pressure is commonly seen in the setting of Adrenal Fatigue. It is caused by a disruption of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system, specifically the cardionomic component. Sustaining balanced blood pressure in the body is a rather complex process. The adrenals, cardiovascular system, and autonomic nervous system all manage your blood pressure in response to stress. Pressure receptors in various organs detect changes in blood pressure and make adjustments by altering both the speed and force of the heart’s contractions, as well as the total resistance to pressure. The kidneys are responsible for the long-term regulation of blood pressure through a system of chemical substances called the renin-angiotensin system. In response to either potassium or angiotensin, the steroid aldosterone is released from the adrenal glands. This hormone is able to rebalance the potassium excretion and sodium retention in the body. For those suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, as the adrenal glands continue to deteriorate, aldosterone, the hormone responsible for the regulation of water and blood flow in the body, is diminished. As sodium and water flow decrease in the body, blood flow drastically slows, also lowering your blood pressure.
What to Do About Low Blood Pressure
Increasing your consumption of sodium can help improve sodium and blood flow. However, you must be careful not to increase salt intake too much: hypertension, edema, or swelling in the lower extremities can all be caused by excessive consumption of sodium. Fine-tuning your sodium intake is a process that should be dealt with through close monitoring by an experienced clinician. Remember, increasing sodium intake is a short-term fix to hypotension, since low blood pressure is a symptom of a larger problem. Increase hydration with fluids can also raise blood pressure, but it may lead to worsening of symptoms if the fluid is not properly balanced with the proper levels of electrolytes. Fluid imbalance typically occurs only in the advanced stages of Adrenal Fatigue, at which point proper professional help should be sought.
Because blood pressure regulation is key to survival, the body has multiple redundant systems to serve as backup. However, the backup systems are often crude and not very precise. They are used as a last resort and can often overshoot or undershoot their physiological objective. For example, in the early stages of Adrenal Fatigue, blood pressure may actually be high, as the body releases too much adrenaline, overpowering the modulating effect of cortisol. In advanced stages of Adrenal Fatigue, however, epinephrine is unopposed as cortisol output declines and the adrenal glands become exhausted. Although you might expect blood pressure to continue to rise, by this time the levels of aldosterone are low, thus acting as a balancer to the epinephrine. The multi-faceted balancing act is a continuous process. Without knowing the degree and severity of Adrenal Fatigue, most practitioners are confused and do not know where to turn because the symptoms appear convoluted and defy medical logic.
If you are in a persistent state of low blood pressure, insist that your doctor complete a full medical work up to assess whether Adrenal Fatigue or any other condition is affecting the function of these important glands. Consistent low blood pressure is an important symptom, especially in cases where Adrenal Fatigue is suspected for other reasons. Other common low blood pressure causes include pregnancy, hormonal problems, diabetes, blood loss, low blood sugar, heart arrhythmias, heart failure, severe allergic reactions, dehydration, abnormal widening or dilation of the blood vessels, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and liver disease. Athletes generally have lower blood pressure than less active individuals do. There are numerous medications that reduce your blood pressure, including Viagra, Cialis, Silenor, Tofranil, Vivactil, Surmontil, Mirapex, Oretic, Microzide, Lasix, Minipress, Latalol, and water pills.
Drastic drops in blood pressure can have severe health consequences including fainting or even death. Seek medical attention if your blood pressure drops dramatically. If your blood pressure is continually low and the other low blood pressure causes are ruled out, it most likely is an indicator of an underlying dysfunction in the adrenal glands. Remember that low blood pressure is a symptom, so it is imperative that the root cause be dealt with. When the underlying condition is addressed, your blood pressure will normalize spontaneously. Short-term fixes such as increased fluids and hydration can be beneficial, if used properly, but will not heal the body.
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Hi, Dr. Lam!!!!!
At this point I am so encouraged that you have set up a forum through which those of us with adrenal fatigue can find hope through answered questions about the dynamics of healing. For one, it is such a comfort that you have stated up front that healing can be plotted along a Recovery Curve with multiple mini cycles in between. So, thanks again.