When you stand up, gravity causes blood to pool in your legs. This decreases blood pressure because there's less blood circulating back to your heart to pump.
Normally, special cells (baroreceptors) near your heart and neck arteries sense this lower blood pressure and send signals to centers in your brain that in turn signal your heart to beat faster and pump more blood, which stabilizes blood pressure. In addition, these cells cause blood vessels to narrow, which increases resistance to blood flow and increases blood pressure.
Orthostatic or postural hypotension occurs when something interrupts the body's natural process of counteracting low blood pressure. Orthostatic hypotension can be caused by many different conditions, including:
May 13, 2014
- Dehydration. Fever, vomiting, not drinking enough fluids, severe diarrhea and strenuous exercise with excessive sweating can all lead to dehydration. When you become dehydrated, your body loses blood volume. Mild dehydration can cause symptoms of orthostatic hypotension, such as weakness, dizziness and fatigue.
- Heart problems. Some heart conditions that can lead to low blood pressure include extremely low heart rate (bradycardia), heart valve problems, heart attack and heart failure. These conditions may cause orthostatic hypotension because they prevent your body from being able to respond rapidly enough to pump more blood when needed, such as when standing up.
- Endocrine problems. Thyroid conditions, adrenal insufficiency (Addison's disease), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and, in some cases, diabetes can trigger low blood pressure. Diabetes can also damage the nerves that help send signals regulating blood pressure.
- Nervous system disorders. Some nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple system atrophy, Lewy body dementia, pure autonomic failure and amyloidosis, can disrupt your body's normal blood pressure regulation system.
- After eating meals. Some people experience low blood pressure after eating meals (postprandial hypotension). This condition is more common in older adults.
- Orthostatic hypotension. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular_disorders/symptoms_of_cardiovascular_disorders/orthostatic_hypotension.html?qt=orthostatic%20hypotension&alt=sh. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- What is hypotension? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hyp/. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Kaufmann H, et al. Mechanisms, causes, and evaluation of orthostatic hypotension. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Low blood pressure. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Low-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301785_Article.jsp. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Low PA, et al. Management of neurogenic orthostatic hypotension: An update. Lancet Neurology. 2008;7:451.
- What is an electrocardiogram? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- What is echocardiography? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/echo/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Kaufmann H, et al. Treatment of orthostatic and postprandial hypotension. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Figueroa JJ, et al. Preventing and treating orthostatic hypotension: As easy as A, B, C. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2010;77:298.
- FDA approves Northera to treat neurogenic orthostatic hypotension. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm386311.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.