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Low Blood Pressure

( Originally Published 1921 )

There are two kinds of low blood pressure, and it is important to distinguish between them. The first kind comes from a number of different causes, usually in early life; and while it is disagreeable to the person who has it, in that it is accompanied by many abnormal sensations, it is not usually dangerous or, indeed, important.

The other kind of low pressure comes in older people who have suffered for a long time from high blood pressure. I have given this the name of secondary low arterial tension. It . is important because the system has been for a long time dependent upon the high blood pressure, and when it is withdrawn there is apt to be a sluggishness of the kidneys and other signs of bad circulation. In this last kind of low blood pressure, the actual measurement may not be low, as it always is in the first kind, but it is much lower than the person has been accustomed to. For that reason it is often hard to detect it unless we know what pressure had gone before.

The first kind of low blood pressure, or primary low blood pressure, is often found in individuals who are naturally below par in their vitality and general constitution. Those who suffer from constitutional low blood pressure form a well defined group in the community. They have poor circulation and suffer from many supposed diseases, according to the part of their body that is under suspicion. They may be supposed to be suffering from indigestion, or a weak heart, or thin blood, or something of the kind, when in fact the symptoms shown by the organs involved are due to constitutional defects. They are always better when they can have some kind of excitement, and there is nothing so good for them as vigorous out-of-door exercise. The worst thing that can happen to them is that they be put on the invalid list and treated for imaginary maladies. Under wise management many of them outgrow the condition and have no more trouble. The condition always tends to improve with age.

Others get low blood pressure from nervous exhaustion, which leads to a bad condition of the bodily chemistry. I recently saw a man suffering from such a condition. He' told me that he had been overworking for the past few months as a member of the War Industries Board, and tho he was a large man, his blood pressure was no higher than that of a child that is, about 100. Incidentally, he said that he thought his Board had shortened the war six months by their efforts, and now he is prepared to take a rest. In this man there had been established a vicious circle. The worry and anxiety had caused his food to go wrong, which had resulted in auto-intoxication, and that in turn had poisoned his nervous system, which caused him to worry all the more.

Treatment of such a condition is by diet, out-of-door exercise, and attention to the stomach and bowels. It is necessary that the will-power of such persons be built up, so that they may be taught to neglect their own sensations and be guided by the rules laid down for them. An almost insuperable sense of fatigue goes with low blood pressure, and leads many people in this condition to seek rest where they really need exercise.

Low blood pressure is met with also as the result of the debilitating effect of disease. This is true in cases of typhoid fever and tuberculosis. In general, low blood pressure is conservative rather than otherwise. It means that the circulatory organs are having rather an easy task to perform.

There is no known way of raising blood pressure except by a general improvement in the conditions causing it, and it should not be the source of too great anxiety.

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