Sep 1, 2023

What causes low blood pressure in the elderly?

Manny Cominsky

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is a condition that occurs when blood flows through the blood vessels at lower than normal pressures. While high blood pressure often takes center stage in health discussions, it's important to recognize that low blood pressure can also pose health risks, especially to older adults. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the causes, symptoms, and management of low blood pressure in older adults. By understanding this condition, you can help ensure the well-being and safety of your older loved ones.

What Is Low Blood Pressure? 

Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, occurs when the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries is lower than normal. In general, a blood pressure reading below 90/60 mm Hg is considered low. However, it's important to note that low blood pressure can vary from person to person, and what may be low for one senior might be normal for another.

Causes of Low Blood Pressure 

Low blood pressure in the elderly can be caused by various factors, both temporary and chronic. Some of the common causes include:

Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake can lower blood volume, leading to low blood pressure.

Blood loss: Significant blood loss from injury or internal bleeding can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Medications: Certain medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure or heart conditions, can lower blood pressure as a side effect.

Heart problems: Conditions like arrhythmias or heart valve disorders can disrupt the normal functioning of the heart and lead to low blood pressure.

Endocrine disorders: Hormonal imbalances, such as in thyroid or adrenal gland disorders, can contribute to low blood pressure.

Age-related changes: As people age, their blood vessels become less elastic, and the autonomic nervous system, which regulates blood pressure, may become less efficient, leading to lower blood pressure.

Signs and Symptoms 

Low blood pressure may not always cause noticeable symptoms, especially in seniors who have consistently low blood pressure. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include:

Dizziness or lightheadedness

Fainting or feeling lightheaded upon standing up

Blurred vision

Fatigue or weakness


Rapid or shallow breathing

Cold, clammy skin

It's important to note that older adults may experience different or more severe symptoms compared to younger individuals. If you or your senior loved one experiences any of these symptoms, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing Low Blood Pressure 

To diagnose low blood pressure, a healthcare professional will typically perform a thorough evaluation, which may include:

Blood pressure measurements: Multiple blood pressure readings will be taken to assess the consistency and severity of low blood pressure.

Medical history review: The doctor will inquire about any underlying health conditions, medications, or recent changes in lifestyle that could contribute to low blood pressure.

Physical examination: A comprehensive physical examination will help identify any signs or symptoms associated with low blood pressure.

Additional tests: Depending on the individual's specific situation, additional tests such as blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), or echocardiogram may be conducted to evaluate the overall health of the heart and rule out any underlying conditions.

Treatment and Management

The treatment approach for low blood pressure depends on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. In some cases, lifestyle modifications may be sufficient, while in others, medical interventions may be necessary. Treatment options may include:

Fluid and salt intake: Increasing fluid and salt intake can help raise blood volume and subsequently increase blood pressure.

Medications: In certain cases, healthcare professionals may prescribe medications to raise blood pressure or manage underlying conditions contributing to low blood pressure.

Compression stockings: These stockings can help improve blood flow by exerting pressure on the legs, preventing blood from pooling and reducing the risk of lightheadedness or dizziness.

Lifestyle changes: Making adjustments to one's lifestyle, such as avoiding sudden changes in posture, staying hydrated, and engaging in regular physical activity, can help manage low blood pressure.

It's crucial to follow the guidance and recommendations of healthcare professionals regarding treatment options and lifestyle modifications to effectively manage low blood pressure.

Preventing Low Blood Pressure

While it may not be possible to prevent low blood pressure entirely, certain measures can help reduce the risk or minimize symptoms:

Stay hydrated: Adequate fluid intake is vital to maintain blood volume and prevent dehydration, which can contribute to low blood pressure.

Eat regular, balanced meals: Consistent and nutritious meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent postprandial hypotension.

Avoid sudden changes in posture: Slowly transitioning from lying down or sitting to standing can prevent a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Use caution with medications: Discuss the potential side effects of medications with a healthcare professional, especially those that may lower blood pressure.

Regular exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve cardiovascular health and regulate blood pressure.

A healthy lifestyle that promotes overall well-being, including maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, can also contribute to maintaining stable blood pressure levels.

The Link Between Low Blood Pressure and Frailty 

Research suggests a connection between low blood pressure and frailty in older adults. Frailty is a state of vulnerability characterized by decreased physical strength, diminished functional abilities, and increased risk of adverse health outcomes. Studies have shown that low blood pressure, particularly drops in systolic blood pressure, is associated with increased frailty and a higher incidence of falls in older adults.

Caring for Older Adults with Low Blood Pressure 

When providing care for older adults with low blood pressure, it's crucial to focus on their overall well-being and safety. Consider the following strategies:

Create a safe environment: Minimize fall risks by ensuring adequate lighting, removing tripping hazards, and installing handrails and grab bars.

Assist with mobility: Offer support when older adults are transitioning from sitting to standing or moving around to prevent dizziness or falls.

Medication management: Help older adults adhere to their medication regimen and communicate any concerns or side effects to healthcare professionals.

Monitor blood pressure: Regularly check blood pressure to ensure it remains within a safe range and consult healthcare professionals if any significant changes occur.

Low blood pressure is a condition that can affect older adults and potentially lead to various health risks. By recognizing the causes, symptoms, and management strategies associated with low blood pressure, you can help promote the well-being and safety of older individuals. Regular monitoring, lifestyle modifications, and appropriate medical interventions can contribute to maintaining stable blood pressure levels and improving overall quality of life for older adults.

Remember, if you or your loved ones experience symptoms of low blood pressure, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

To learn more about how Sunbound can help make senior care more affordable for you or your loved one, send us an email at or request more information on Sunbound. Sunbound is the best way to pay for senior living and senior care and is on a mission to make senior living affordable for everyone.

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