Low Blood Pressure
( Originally Published 1921 )
When the pressure of the blood vessels is low, the circulation can not answer as many demands on it as when the blood pressure is high, and a person in this condition is apt to suffer from bad circulation. Low blood pressure is constitutional with some, and these are said to suffer from constitutional low arterial tension. Such people are liable to have uncomfortable experiences all their life. They suffer greatly during cold weather, become unduly prostrated by any slight illness, are apt to have palpitation of the heart, and they often suffer from fainting attacks and numb feelings in the limbs.
With most people, however, low blood pressure comes from debility or nervous exhaustion. It may be due to relaxation of the blood vessels or to weakness of the heart. When low blood pressure occurs in this way, it is not necessarily dangerous or even serious. It is simply an indication of an existing condition. On the other hand, when low blood pressure occurs as following high blood pressure of long standing, or when it occurs in heart disease or kidney disease in persons that have been sick for a long time, it is of serious import and often marks the beginning of a dangerous state.
Low blood pressure is easily detected by any of the instruments for measuring blood pressure, and can also often be discovered simply by feeling the pulse. It is not always an indication of danger because, if there is enough reserve power in the heart and circulation, the pressure will increase Whenever the body makes a demand upon the circulation for a high blood pressure.
It is often a great mistake to raise blood pressure by treatment just for the sake of having it high. I have sometimes seen young doctors in hospital work administer stimulants to raise a patient's blood pressure when nature would have raised it spontaneously when there was need for it.
The treatment for low blood pressure, when it occurs as a constitutional affair or as an accompaniment of nervous exhaustion or debility, consists principally in hygienic measures. There is nothing better than exercise. Persons who are habitually afflicted with low blood pressure feel much better if they can have a little stirring exercise every day, such as a horseback ride -or a game of tennis. Patients of this class are often benefited by hot baths while they are made uncomfortable by cold baths.
When low pressure comes as a result of a failing circulation, it is not always shown by instruments used to measure blood pressure, because if the blood pressure is low, and at the same time the arteries are contracted, the measurement which the physician obtains does not represent the true pressure. He can, however, often infer a blood pressure that is too low for the demands of the system when these conditions are due to kidney trouble.
The treatment for low blood pressure in a person who has suffered for a long time from disease of the circulation must consist in those measures that will restore the vitality. A per-son having low blood pressure can help himself a great deal by attention to exercise, avoiding stimulants and tobacco, keeping good hours, and leading a healthful life in general.
However, it may be said that people with low blood pressure can endure without harm a degree of excitement that in a person with high blood pressure would lead to a breakdown. In fact, patients with constitutional low blood pressure may be just sufficiently stimulated by an amount of nervous gayety that would wear out the average person in a short time.
The treatment of low blood pressure is coextensive with the treatment of debilitating conditions in general. The cause of low blood pressure may, however, lead to autoinfection of the intestinal tract; in this case the person's cooperation in the treatment is important.