Orthostatic Hypotension: What Causes It And How Can You Prevent It?


Ever stood up too quickly and felt dizzy? That’s a common experience of orthostatic hypotension. It’s a condition that can make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride, even when you’re just getting up from your couch.

Orthostatic hypotension, often known as a head rush or dizzy spell, is more than just a fleeting feeling. It’s a drop in blood pressure that happens when you shift from sitting or lying down to standing. This sudden drop can lead to a brief feeling of lightheadedness, or in some cases, a loss of consciousness.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this. Millions across the globe experience this condition. In this article, we’ll help you understand what’s happening when orthostatic hypotension strikes, its causes, symptoms, and how you can manage it effectively.

What is Orthostatic Hypotension?


Orthostatic hypotension, sometimes known as postural hypotension, is quite simply a form of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up from lying down or sitting. When this shift in position occurs, you might feel dizzy or lightheaded, or even faint. This happens because your blood pressure falls dramatically within a moment of standing.

This condition can be brief, but in some instances, it can last for an extended period. It’s commonly seen in adults over the age of 65 but it can affect individuals at any age. Even though it might be disorienting, orthostatic hypotension typically isn’t severe and can often be managed fairly effectively.

You might view it as a heads-up from your body. It’s letting you know that you need to pay attention to your health and lifestyle.


The cause of orthostatic hypotension is an unsuccessful attempt by your body to control blood pressure within a defined range. Standing up causes gravity to pull your blood into the lower half of your body. Under normal circumstances, your body would counteract this by increasing your heart rate and constricting certain blood vessels to help maintain a steady, healthy blood pressure.

However, with orthostatic hypotension, this system fails and results in a drastic drop in blood pressure. This drop can be due to various factors, including:

  • Dehydration: Reduced water intake or excessive sweating can cause you to become dehydrated, reducing blood volume and leading to orthostatic hypotension.
  • Heart problems: Conditions like a very low heart rate, heart valve issues, heart attack, and heart failure can prevent your heart from being able to pump enough blood to the body.
  • Endocrine problems: Conditions such as diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, and issues with thyroid can lower blood pressure.
  • Nervous system disorders: Disorders like Parkinson’s disease and certain types of neuropathy can disrupt your body’s normal blood pressure regulation.

If you’ve been feeling lightheaded when standing up, it may be a good idea to ** monitor your blood pressure**. It’s not hard to learn how to take blood pressure, and there are many affordable blood pressure monitors available to help you keep track. Be mindful of your health because often, orthostatic hypotension may be a sign of underlying health issues like heart conditions or endocrine problems.

Symptoms of Orthostatic Hypotension

A key aspect of successfully managing orthostatic hypotension is understanding its symptoms. This condition may manifest in different ways, but there are three primary symptoms to look out for: lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting.

How Does Lightheadedness Affect You?

First on the list is lightheadedness. If you’re feeling lightheaded upon standing, it’s a possible sign of orthostatic hypotension. This symptom is the result of not enough blood getting to your brain, making you feel like you’re going to pass out.

While monitoring your blood pressure, a blood pressure chart can be extremely helpful in making sense of your readings. Here’s a quick reference table you can use.

Blood Pressure LevelNormal Reading
Systolic Pressureless than 120
Diastolic Pressureless than 80

Is Dizziness a Symptom?

Next up is dizziness. If standing results in feeling unsteady, you might be experiencing this common symptom of orthostatic hypotension. It might seem similar to lightheadedness, but it’s distinctly different. When you’re dizzy, you might feel like the room is spinning, or lose your balance.

To monitor this condition, you could consider a blood pressure monitor. Frequent measurements can help you understand if your dizziness correlates with blood pressure fluctuations.

Can Orthostatic Hypotension Cause Fainting?

The last primary symptom is fainting. In more severe cases of orthostatic hypotension, lightheadedness can progress to full-blown fainting. It’s more than just feeling like you’re about to pass out – you actually lose consciousness.

Decreasing your blood pressure is a crucial step if you have high readings. To do so it might be beneficial to research how to lower blood pressure or consult a health professional on blood pressure medications.

Remember, the key is to know how your body feels immediately upon standing. If you’re monitoring your blood pressure levels and observing any of these symptoms, you’re already on track to effectively manage orthostatic hypotension.

Risk Factors

Orthostatic hypotension might not heed an age limit but there are, undoubtedly, contributing factors that may increase your risk. By digging deeper into these risk factors, you can be one step ahead in managing your health. Understanding such factors like age, the kind of medications you’re taking, and the existence of any medical conditions can guide you towards better health decisions.

How Does Age Affect My Risk Of Developing Orthostatic Hypotension?

While orthostatic hypotension can affect individuals of any age, you’re more likely to experience it as you age, particularly if you’re over the age of 65. A study revealed a significant rise in the incidence of orthostatic hypotension in people over the age of 60, compared to younger adults. The reason? As you age, your body’s ability to respond to abrupt blood pressure changes gradually slows down, making you more susceptible.

Which Medications Increase My Risk?

The relationship between your blood pressure readings and the medications you take can’t be overemphasized. Certain medications are notorious for causing or worsening this condition. These include:

  1. High Blood Pressure Medications: Ironically, drugs meant to control high blood pressure can sometimes drop it too low, especially when you stand up.
  2. Diuretics: These can cause dehydration, a significant trigger for orthostatic hypotension.
  3. Heart medications: Some of these may also lower your standing blood pressure.
  4. Medications for Parkinson’s Disease: Certain drugs for treating Parkinson’s Disease can cause a sudden drop your blood pressure.
  5. Antidepressants: Some types can lead to orthostatic hypotension.

If you’re on any of these drugs, you should be mindful to monitor your blood pressure regularly using a reliable blood pressure monitor.

Do Certain Medical Conditions Increase My Risk Of Orthostatic Hypotension?

Absolutely. Certain medical conditions introduce a higher chance of developing orthostatic hypotension. Both heart problems and endocrine problems like diabetes and thyroid disorders can contribute. Disorders that cause nerve damage, like peripheral neuropathy and spinal cord injuries, and nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease can also play a role.

Continued awareness of the risk factors can guide you towards ways on how to lower your blood pressure and understand the need to gratify your wellbeing with a suitable lifestyle and health choices.

Diagnosing Orthostatic Hypotension

Orthostatic Hypotension often goes undetected, mostly due to its transient nature and non-specific symptoms like lightheadedness and dizziness. But, if you’re experiencing repeated episodes of these symptoms upon standing, it’s crucial to seek professional help. Diagnosis typically involves a thorough physical examination, strategic blood pressure monitoring, and sometimes, a tilt table test.

What Happens During a Physical Examination?

During your appointment, your doctor is likely to examine your medical history and perform a physical evaluation. They’ll pay close attention to your symptoms, take note of when they occur, and ask about any medications you’re on. This is because certain medications are known to contribute to orthostatic hypotension. In some cases, it might be as simple as adjusting your current medication regimen.

Your doctor may also review your blood pressure chart if you have one. This allows them to see a clear pattern of your blood pressure readings, comparing those recorded while sitting, lying flat and standing.

How Does Blood Pressure Monitoring Work?

Monitoring your blood pressure is pivotal to diagnose orthostatic hypotension. Your doctor will ask you to relax, sit, and then stand while they take and record your blood pressure readings at every posture. If your blood pressure drops significantly within a few minutes of standing, a diagnosis of orthostatic hypotension can be made.

Remember, accurately monitoring your blood pressure at home is a helpful piece in this puzzle. A reliable blood pressure monitor could be beneficial for this. Regular monitoring over a week can help trace any irregular patterns or sudden drops in your blood pressure.

What Is the Tilt Table Test?

In some cases, your doctor might suggest a tilt table test, particularly if routine tests don’t provide a clear diagnosis. During this test, you’ll be strapped to a table that slowly tilts to raise your body to a near-standing position. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored throughout, and a significant drop in blood pressure upon standing could indicate orthostatic hypotension.

Diagnosing orthostatic hypotension is the first step towards effective management. With an early diagnosis, you can work on measures to control and alleviate symptoms, including changes in diet, adjustments to medication, or simple lifestyle modifications like wearing a compression stocking. Remember, each individual is unique and so is their journey with managing orthostatic hypotension.

Treatment Options

In your journey to manage orthostatic hypotension, an array of treatment strategies can help you tackle the issue. The right choice for you may heavily depend on not only your specific symptoms but also the root cause of your condition. Before we address medication options, let’s delve into some of the lifestyle changes that can help keep your blood pressure stable.

Can Lifestyle Changes Impact Your Blood Pressure?

Indeed, they can. When managing orthostatic hypotension, a few adjustments in your daily routine can make a significant difference. Here are some smart moves you can incorporate into your lifestyle:

  1. Staying Hydrated: Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids, especially in hot weather. Dehydration can lower your blood pressure, kicking off the symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
  2. Tweaking Your Diet: Consider adding a bit more salt to your meals – but remember, consult with your doctor first as high sodium diets aren’t ideal for everyone.
  3. Maintaining A Regular Exercise Regime: Regular physical activity helps regulate blood pressure. Light exercises like walking can be a good starting point if you’re new to fitness.
  4. Gradual Position Changes: Rather than abrupt movements, take it slow. If you’ve been lying down, sit up first before you stand.
  5. Navigate Wisely: Take note of the blood pressure chart in your medical check-ups. Understand how your blood pressure fluctuates and take actions accordingly.

What About Medications for Orthostatic Hypotension?

Only after assessing your condition, your doctor may recommend specific medications to help manage your orthostatic hypotension. It’s central to keep a track of how these drugs interact with your body, just like how you’d use a blood pressure monitor to keep tabs on your BP levels. Here are a few types of medications that are commonly prescribed:

  • Fludrocortisone: This medication boosts your blood volume, which can raise blood pressure.
  • Midodrine: Primarily used for chronic low blood pressure, Midodrine prevents blood pressure from dropping when you stand up.

Always keep in close touch with your healthcare provider about any side effects you experience. The role of medication isn’t just about treating symptoms. It’s also about ensuring they blend with your lifestyle without instigating further health ramifications.

So, while you’re pondering over the question of “how to lower blood pressure?” or “how to take blood pressure?”, remember that you’re not alone. Your physicians and healthcare team standby to guide and support you at each step.

Preventing Orthostatic Hypotension

Just like understanding how a blood pressure monitor works, it’s essential to comprehend how certain lifestyle adjustments can assist in preventing orthostatic hypotension or sudden drops in your BP.

Stay Hydrated: How Important Is It?

Dehydration can swiftly lead to orthostatic hypotension. Adequate hydration assists in maintaining the proper volume of your blood, which in turn ensures your blood pressure doesn’t drop significantly when you change posture.

To stay well-hydrated, consider these tips:

  1. Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, as it’s commonly recommended.
  2. Choose hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables liberally.
  3. Limit the intake of diuretics such as alcohol, coffee, and certain medications.

Taking serious note of how you hydrate your body can be as significant as knowing how to measure blood pressure accurately.

Why Should You Avoid Sudden Movements?

Rapid or abrupt movements can lead to a sudden decrease in your blood pressure as your body needs time to adjust to positional changes. This adjustment process is particularly crucial if you’ve been diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension.

Practice these habits to minimize rapid drops in blood pressure:

  • Rise slowly from a sitting or lying position.
  • Don’t stand still for too long.
  • When you wake up, sit on the bed for a few minutes before standing.

Gradual Postural Changes: Do They Help?

Adopting gradual changes in posture can lessen the risk of sudden BP drops. It’s a small lifestyle adaptation, yet it’s as necessary as knowing how to lower BP via other methods, like medication or diet.

Consider integrating these gradual postural changes into your lifestyle:

  • When lying down, slightly elevate the head of your bed.
  • Allow for a few minutes of rest when transitioning from lying to standing.
  • Use support such as handrails or assistive devices when changing positions.

These simple tweaks in your daily habits can make a substantial difference regarding orthostatic hypotension prevention. Coupled with regular blood pressure monitoring and consultation with your healthcare provider, these strategies prove effective.

It’s worth noting that for some, medication may be needed in conjunction with these lifestyle changes; don’t hesitate to discuss this with your healthcare provider if your symptoms persist.

Remember, preventive measures as simple as how you move, drink and rest can work wonders for managing your blood pressure and making orthostatic hypotension just a term, not a condition you grapple with.


So, you’ve delved into the world of orthostatic hypotension. It’s clear that awareness is the first step to managing this condition. Regular blood pressure checks and lifestyle adjustments can go a long way.

Remember, it’s not just about tackling symptoms head-on, but also about preventing them. Staying hydrated, moving slowly, and using support are all part of the strategy. But don’t forget, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You may need medication as part of your plan. Always consult your healthcare provider to find the best approach for you. It’s your health, take control. You’ve got this!

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