We all know that high blood pressure is bad for us. But what about low blood pressure?
The question is important because blood pressure guidelines have changed in recent years.
It used to be that doctors routinely prescribed hypertension drugs to patients whose systolic (upper number) reading was greater than 140. Now the recommendation has dropped to 130. This means far more people are candidates for blood pressure drugs.
But a study found that some people with borderline hypertension may be doing themselves more harm than good by lowering their blood pressure too much. They could be setting themselves up for a trip to the emergency room or worse.
Researchers from Kaiser Permanente in California wanted to find out if lowering blood pressure could cause unintended health problems.i
They reviewed the health records of more than 475,000 patients who were on blood pressure medication. The patients’ average age was 65.ii
During the one-year study period, the researchers noted when a patient’s systolic blood pressure had dropped below 110 mmHg.
The researchers found that patients whose blood pressure fell this low had a 50% greater risk of serious falls and fainting.
The risk is widespread. The study indicates that nearly 12 million Americans could be putting themselves at risk of falling or fainting by lowering their blood pressure too much with medications.
It’s no wonder that falls are the leading cause of accidental death in people over 65. They are also the most common cause of emergency room admissions.iii
Dr. John Sim is a nephrologist with Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles
Medical Center. He was the study’s lead author.
“Physicians considering lower blood pressure targets for their patients should weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive blood pressure lowering on an individual basis, especially in older patients,” he said.
Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally
If you have borderline high blood pressure, don’t let your doctor automatically put you on drugs. Particularly if you are over 65.
There are some steps you can take to reduce hypertension without risking a dangerous fall.
First, make sure that you have high blood pressure in the first place.
A Canadian study found that 20% of patients who’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure actually don’t have it.
Before your doctor takes your blood pressure, make sure that you sit quietly for at least five minutes.
Don’t exercise, consume caffeine, or smoke within 30 minutes of your test. And make sure that during the reading, your arm is supported on a surface level with your heart.
If your reading is still high, there are natural remedies you can try.
3 Natural Blood Pressure Medicines
- Berries. One study found that eating a handful of blueberries once a week lowers the risk of high blood pressure by 10%. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that reduce blood pressure.
- Hibiscus Tea. Researchers found that one daily cup of herbal tea containing the hibiscus flower lowers both systolic (the upper number) and diastolic (the lower number) blood pressure by over 15 points in just four weeks. You can buy hibiscus tea at most health food stores and online. Like berries, hibiscus flowers are loaded with anthocyanins.
- Beet Juice. An Australian study had subjects drink either beet juice or a placebo. Scientists found that within hours of drinking beet juice, subjects’ blood pressure dropped 5 points. The placebo group had no drop in blood pressure. Subsequent studies have confirmed the effect. Beet juice is high in naturally occurring nitrates, which open blood vessels.
There’s no doubt that high blood pressure is bad for you. But low blood pressure can be just as dangerous if it puts you at risk for falling. Make sure that your medications are not pushing you into the danger zone.
If your systolic readings (the upper number) are consistently under 110 and you are over 65, talk to your doctor about adjusting your blood pressure medication dosage.
Editor’s Note: There is a heart attack risk factor that is 10 times more dangerous than cholesterol. But mainstream doctors don’t test for it. And statins actually make it worse.