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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

What is Orthostatic Hypotension?



Orthostatic hypotension (OH) — also called postural hypotension — is a sudden, steep drop in blood pressure that happens when a person stands up from sitting or lying down. This drop in blood pressure can lead to fatigue,  lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, and in severe cases, fainting.

OH affects roughly 20% of older adults in the community and is related to an increased risk for falls. 

Causes:

  • Dehydration: Not having enough fluid in your body can reduce your blood volume, leading to a drop in blood pressure when you stand up.

  • Medications: Some medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions, or depression, can lower blood pressure and increase the risk of OH.

  • Nervous system disorders: Conditions that affect the autonomic nervous system, which controls blood pressure, can lead to OH. Examples include Parkinson's disease, multiple system atrophy, and diabetic neuropathy.

  • Heart conditions: Heart problems such as valve disorders, heart failure, or a heart attack can affect blood flow and lead to OH.

  • Endocrine disorders: Conditions such as adrenal insufficiency, hypothyroidism, or diabetes can disrupt the body's hormone balance and contribute to OH.

  • Aging: Blood vessels may become less elastic with age, which can contribute to OH in older adults.

Your doctor may diagnose OH based on your symptoms and a physical exam. They may also perform tests such as blood pressure monitoring while lying down and then standing up, as well as blood tests to check for underlying conditions.

Treatment for OH depends on the underlying cause of the problem but may include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Drinking plenty of fluids, increasing salt intake (under a doctor's guidance), and avoiding alcohol and caffeine can help raise blood pressure.

  • Compression stockings or abdominal binders: These can help improve blood flow to the heart and reduce the risk of OH.

  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medications to increase blood volume, constrict blood vessels, or regulate your heart rate to help manage symptoms.

  • Exercise: Physical exercise will help keep muscles active and can be done while sitting or in a pool. Contracting major muscle groups, like the glutes and thighs, before standing up can also support steady blood pressure.

It's important to work with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of your orthostatic hypotension and develop an individualized treatment plan.  

Are you experiencing symptoms of orthostatic hypotension that limit your daily activities and safety? Call Engage Therapy and Wellness at 315-810-2423 to learn more about how our therapy team can help!

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