If you are experiencing a certain amount of dizziness, light-headed feeling or that sensation of extreme tiredness after eating, it could be a case of postprandial hypotension.
Many of us are aware of postprandial blood sugar but what is postprandial hypotension? Though a very common symptom, especially among the elderly, it is often ignored and is attributed to general weakness or low blood sugars in case of diabetics.
What Is Postprandial Hypotension?
Postprandial in a layman term means – after the meal, whereas hypotension stands for low blood pressure. Blood pressure is defined as the force of blood flow against the walls of arteries when heart beats and supplies blood to rest of the body. A drop in systolic blood pressure of up to 20mmHg within 2 hours after consuming a meal is defined as postprandial hypotension.
Normally, the blood pressure keeps changing, depending on what you are doing at the given point of time. It may go temporarily higher during workouts, intense physical activity but lowers during sleep, also known as resting phase. While high blood pressure can cause various cardiovascular health issues, low blood pressure too is equally dangerous and may lead to serious health complications including fainting, loss of consciousness and could be fatal.
How Common Is Postprandial Hypotension?
It may sound surprising, but postprandial hypotension is a very common condition often found in the elderly aged 60 and above. If you have a parent or an elderly person at home constantly complaining about severe tiredness, dizziness within 1 or 2 hours after consuming a meal, it’s time to record their blood pressure regularly at least 3 days before seeing a doctor.
If the readings are around 100/60 or even 90/60, for at least 3 consecutive days, especially after eating seek medical intervention.
What Causes Postprandial Hypotension?
It is not completely clear or understood what causes a drop in the blood pressure, but the most possible explanation is related to the process of digestion.
Digestion is one of the main bodily functions and digestive system works in tandem with central nervous and blood circulatory systems to get the job done. While digesting a meal, extra blood flow is required by the stomach and small intestine and for balancing this the heart beats harder and faster constricting blood vessels in the legs and other parts of the body. This causes sudden drop in blood pressure everywhere except in the digestive system, leading to sudden dizziness, tiredness and in severe cases results in nausea and chest pain.
The symptoms are quite palpable while standing and cause syncope or fainting. Older people are at the risk of fall – subsequent injuries, fractures caused due to this sudden drop in blood pressure.
Who Is At The Risk of Postprandial Hypotension?
Sudden drop in blood pressure after eating is commonly found in the elderly. According to statistics, at least 1 in 3 elderly people suffer from postprandial hypotension.
Though it is commonly noticed in the elderly, patients suffering from other forms of orthostatic hypotension or certain health conditions that disrupt the autonomic nervous system like uncontrolled diabetes, Parkinson’s disease are also at the high risk of postprandial hypotension.
Consumption of diet rich in carbohydrates is also another prime reason behind this health condition as body chemicals, insulin that are released into the blood stream as a reaction to the high carb diet, excessively dilate the blood vessels in the stomach, leading to this complication.
How Is Postprandial Hypotension Treated?
There is no specific treatment plan to cure low blood pressure after eating but it can be managed effectively by making certain lifestyle changes.
- Eating small, frequent meals require lesser amount of blood pooling in the stomach, without denying blood flow for general circulation across the body. Make it a habit to eat more meals in small quantities.
- Do not eat high carb diet as it tends to make the symptoms worse. Doctors believe that intestines have to work more for digesting carb loaded food and would require extra blood flow causing low blood pressure in other areas of the body.
- Make sure to lie down for at least one or two hours after eating the meal, for digestion to complete and the blood pressure to settle down.
- Drinking water at least 15 minutes before the meal aids in reducing the symptoms.
- Walking between meals improves vascular health and prevents quick drop in blood pressure.
What Are The Other Factors That Can Drop Blood Pressure?
A rapid drop in blood pressure can be dangerous and it needs immediate medical attention. If you think that your hypotension is not related to eating, check for the following underlying reasons:
- Heart valve disease
- Severe dehydration
- Thyroid gland dysfunction
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency
In case, if you find the above symptoms relevant to your condition, talk to your doctor for a complete diagnosis.