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The Parkinson’s Fitness Project | Lightheaded???… Understanding the Reasons Behind Low BP with PD.

Lightheaded???… Understanding the Reasons Behind Low BP with PD.

Have you ever stood up from a chair only to feel like you’re going to faint or fall back down?  This lightheaded, dizzy feeling can be scary and it happens all too often for some people with Parkinson’s Disease.  The symptoms result from a sharp drop in blood pressure when changing positions.  If the blood pressure continues to drop after 2+ minutes of standing, this is called Orthostatic Hypotension (OH). Symptoms of OH can cause a loss of balance and falls that can result in serious injuries. OH tends to be more prevalent in mid to late stage PD.This is why it is important to recognize the symptoms and understand the steps to avoid letting them take you down.

 

Causes

When we change positions, such as going from sitting to standing, our body adjusts to the changes in gravity by constricting the blood vessels in our torso and legs in order to prevent changes in blood pressure in our brain and causes our hearts begin to beat a bit faster.  This response can be diminished due to side effects of some commonly prescribed PD meds including: Sinemet, antidepressants, and blood pressure regulators.  Other factors that contribute to OH include dehydration and cardiac disease.  

 

Management

While the symptoms of OH can occur quickly, here are preemptive steps you can take to prevent a dangerous fall from occurring:  

 

  1. Hydration: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially with increased exercise or in hot temperatures, will help to keep your blood pressure stable when changing positions. (8+ glasses/day)
  2. Know your meds. Talk to your doctor about your medications and how they can affect your BP. *If you are experiencing any symptoms of OH, ask your MD if any of these medications can be adjusted.  
  3. Get up slowly: If you know you have a tendency to get dizzy or lightheaded in standing, give your body a time to equilibrate. Take a deep breath, and make sure you feel steady before moving around.
  4. Exercise: Pump your ankles 10-20 times or tighten your thighs before standing or sitting up from lying down. These muscle contractions help move blood away from the legs and back to the heart.  

 

Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid the symptoms of Orthostatic Hypotension and stand with a little more confidence!


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