Blood pressure is the measurement of the force exerted on artery walls by our circulating blood. When our blood pressure is abnormally high, we have “hypertension”. When our blood pressure is abnormally low, we have “hypotension”.
Both high and low blood pressure can cause damage to our bodies and shorten our lives. But is one more dangerous than the other?
The Dangers of High Blood Pressure
- Increased risk of kidney disease
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Eye damage
High blood pressure damages arteries. The kidneys are filled with arteries, including the smallest arteries in the human body. Those tiny blood vessels, located in the functional unit of the kidneys, called nephrons, bring high volumes of blood into the kidneys to be filtered (among other things). Damaged arteries are unable to deliver sufficient blood to the kidneys, which damages the kidneys. Damaged kidneys do not filter blood well.
Making matters worse, the now damaged kidneys will also fail to regulate blood pressure. Healthy kidneys produce a hormone to help the body regulate its own blood pressure. Uncontrolled blood pressure and kidney damage can lead to a spiral that ends in kidney failure. Obviously, the same arterial damage leads to diseases of the heart, eyes and brain.
Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up along the artery walls, narrowing arteries, hardening them, and slowing blood flow. Atherosclerosis can, and often does, contribute to the other four dangers of persistent high blood pressure, particularly coronary heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Atherosclerosis has also been known to contribute to the development of retinal vascular occlusion and other eye diseases.
Fortunately, all of these negative health outcomes are preventable.
What is considered high blood pressure?
Hypertension has a scale. The prehypertension range is considered 120 to 139 systolic and 80 to 89 diastolic pressure. Stage 1 hypertension range is 140 to 159 systolic and 90 to 99 diastolic pressure. Full-on hypertension, also known as stage 2 hypertension, is 160 or higher systolic and 100 or higher diastolic pressure.
The Dangers of Low Blood Pressure
- Failure to deliver sufficient nutrients and oxygen to vital organs, preventing them from functioning normally, ultimately leading to shock. Some organs are more dependent on higher blood volume (and oxygen) than others, and will be affected faster than others
Because everyone is slightly different, what is considered abnormally low blood pressure for one person may be normal for you. Most doctors only consider chronic low blood pressure dangerous if it causes the following signs and symptoms:
- Dizziness / lightheadedness
- Fainting (aka syncope)
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
- Cold, clammy, unnaturally pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Dehydration and unusual thirst (Note: dehydration can also be a cause of low blood pressure)
So, if you have low blood pressure, but have experienced no other signs that something is amiss, you can be fairly certain that you are healthy. However, if your blood pressure is normally higher or if you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, your low blood pressure may have an underlying cause. Early pregnancy, endocrine problems, allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), nutritional deficiencies, certain medications and heart valve problems are all known to cause low blood pressure. If you suspect any of these causes, you should consult your doctor immediately.
What is considered low blood pressure?
Anything under 120 systolic and 80 diastolic pressure is considered optimal blood pressure. Unless, of course, you experience any of the symptoms listed above.
“Some experts define low blood pressure as readings lower than 90 mm Hg systolic or 60 mm Hg diastolic — you need to have only one number in the low range for your blood pressure to be considered lower than normal. In other words, if your systolic pressure is a perfect 115, but your diastolic pressure is 50, you’re considered to have lower than normal pressure.”1
But, to reiterate, if you are experiencing no negative side-effects and your blood pressure is usually low, there’s no cause for concern.
Hypertension vs Hypotension – Which is worse?
Although high blood pressure can cause severe damage to blood vessels and organs over time, leading to eventual organ failure, low blood pressure can cause a more sudden death. Basically, low pressure may give you much less time to respond to the condition causing it, before it’s too late. For this reason, it is important that everyone – young and old – keep tabs on their blood pressure.
To quote the American Heart Association, “Know your numbers.”
For more information on blood pressure and holistic treatments for both high and low blood pressure, watch our video “How to Normalize Blood Pressure: High and Low”.
1 “Low Blood Pressure”. American Heart Association, March 23, 2016. Web. August 2016
Osorio, Jehel. “High Blood Pressure vs Low Blood Pressure – Which is Worse?” HH&L (old), July 1, 2011. Web. August 2016
“Understanding Blood Pressure Readings”. American Heart Association, March 23, 2016. Web. August 2016
“Kidney Damage and High Blood Pressure”. American Heart Association, June 29, 2016. Web. August 2016
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Low Blood Pressure (hypotension)”. Mayo Clinic, February 21, 2015. Web. August 2016
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