Often, getting up there in years results in many physical and medical problems that weren’t present at younger ages. It seems activities like standing up and walking, particularly after eating, causes more dizziness and uneasiness. One of the reasons why this happens is lower diastolic blood pressure as you age.
What causes low diastolic blood pressure in the elderly? Low diastolic blood pressure in the elderly can be caused by the following:
- Stiffening of the arteries.
- Some medications for age related medical problems.
- Lowering systolic blood pressure down to 120 mm Hg or lower.
- Heart problems.
How often do you see an elderly person hold onto a piece of furniture or a wall after standing up? Lately, studies are showing a possible connection to it and heart damage (r). Unfortunately, some of the causes of low diastolic blood pressure is a result of medical treatments.
Causes Of Low Diastolic Blood Pressure In The Elderly
Stiffening Of The Arteries
Arteries are made up of several different layers, each with their own composition and function. Arteries are made up of cells, collagen and elastin fibers.
As you get older, the elastin fibers decay and lose their functionality. In addition, calcium increases in the arteries where they bind to the elastin fibers causing calcification.
Age is also linked to changes on the amino acid scale that can contribute to more stiffness caused by a loss of elastin functionality.
Collagen concentration in the artery layers increases with age and disrupts the elastin. The changes in collagen have been shown to increase stiffening of the arteries (r).
Stiffening of the arteries causes systolic blood pressure to rise while diastolic blood pressure decreases. A stiff artery has a harder time springing back between heartbeats, when the heart is refilling with blood.
It’s at this exact time; diastolic blood pressure is measured. This causes your diastolic blood pressure to be lower.
Low diastolic pressure in the elderly is just one of ten topics discussed in my article, The Low Blood Pressure Range – Everything You Need To Know. Find out the causes, symptoms, treatments, when it’s an emergency and more.
Some Medications For Age Related Medical Problems
Alpha-blocker medications: Alpha blockers are often used in combination with other medications, like diuretics, for high blood pressure hard to control. They are also used for prostate problems in men including to help improve urine flow.
Alpha blockers help prevent the tightening of smaller arteries and veins. This keeps the vessels more open and improves blood flow. Because the blood vessels are more open, this lowers blood pressure, particularly diastolic (r).
Erectile dysfunction medications: Many men are taking erectile dysfunction medication today, particularly older men. These medications help improve sexual function in men who may have other health issues that affect their sexual performance.
Sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient, relaxes smooth muscle tissue and opens up the blood vessels increasing blood flow. The opening up of the blood vessels helps to lower blood pressure (r).
Medications for Parkinson’s Disease: Parkinson’s disease is known as an older person’s disease because most people are diagnosed over age 60 (r). A common medication for Parkinson’s disease are dopamine agonists.
Like most medications they have potential side effects, one of them is lowering blood pressure (r). They lower blood pressure by dilating your blood vessels.
Lowering Systolic Blood Pressure In The Elderly
Systolic blood pressure increases as you age. For people over 50, systolic BP is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This is because of an increased plaque build-up and hardening of the arteries.
For this reason, lowering systolic blood pressure in the elderly is very important. The medications and treatments used to accomplish, also lowers diastolic blood pressure.
While trying to lower systolic BP in the elderly, the lower diastolic pressure is a growing concern. This is especially true for those people who already had low diastolic pressure to start with.
A recent 2017 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported an association with lowering diastolic pressure too low with heart damage (r).
More research about this association needs to be done but the current evidence is enough to warrant caution when lowering diastolic blood pressure too much.
There are times when the heart is unable to pump enough blood throughout your body lowering blood pressure. Some of these times are caused by heart problems associated with aging.
Heart Valves: There are 4 heart valves in charge of the blood flow through your heart. Sometimes valves will not open enough, or they fail to close properly causing a leakage. While heart valve problems can occur with age, not all of them are age related (r).
Low Heart Rate: Heart rate, also known as your pulse, is how many times your heart beats per minute. For a normal adult, most people’s average heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. For athletes and people very fit, their heart rate can be as low as 40 bpm (r).
A heart rate condition, like Bradycardia, is when your heart rate gets too slow. A low heart rate can cause a lack of blood to your body’s organs, including your brain. Ironically, bradycardia can also cause high blood pressure.
Heart Attack and Heart Failure: During a heart attack, the blood flow to your heart is restricted or cut off. Most often, this occurs due to a blockage in an artery (r). There are 3 ways a heart attack can cause low blood pressure:
- Your heart pumps less blood because of reduced blood volume and tissue damage.
- Your nervous system reacts to the extreme stress or pain.
- The parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your body’s resting state, goes into overdrive.
Other Causes Of Low Blood Pressure In The Elderly
I grouped the following low blood pressure causes into a separate section of this blog post. This is because they can cause low blood pressure in people of any age and not just older people. The following causes can occur in the elderly or young:
- Other medications
- Medications used for surgery
- Severe Infection
- Severe allergic reactions
- Changes in body positions
- Internal bleeding
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Diabetes and nerve damage
- Low blood sugar
- Thyroid problems
- Addison’s disease