Managing low blood pressure and Parkinson's

Do you experience low blood pressure and Parkinson’s and want to know what you can do to manage it? In this article, Vicky, Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, looks at the symptoms of low blood pressure and shares her top tips on managing it.

People with Parkinson’s may experience low blood pressure (hypotension). If you experience a sudden large drop in blood pressure when standing or changing position, this is called postural hypotension or orthostatic hypotension.

The symptoms of low blood pressure can include:

  • light-headedness or dizziness

  • shoulder or neck pain

  • blurred vision

  • feeling weak or confusion

  • fainting

If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should get your blood pressure checked in the sitting or lying position, and then again after standing up for 2 to 3 minutes. These readings can be done by a health professional, or at home if you have a BP monitor and feel confident using it. Blood Pressure UK has information about choosing a blood pressure monitor.

Low blood pressure can be a symptom of Parkinson’s. There are also other causes. Your GP may be able to recommend treatment to ease the symptoms of low blood pressure. Read more about what causes low blood pressure in Parkinson’s and how it is treated.

Blood pressure varies throughout the day, and is affected by different factors, such as temperature, digestion of food, and general wellbeing.

Below are some ways to manage low blood pressure if you have Parkinson’s.

Drink plenty of water so that you don’t become dehydrated

Drinking enough water is especially important with Parkinson’s because water helps to regulate your blood pressure.

Make sure you eat a balanced diet with plenty of fibre so that you don’t get constipated

Constipation can make your Parkinson’s symptoms worse, and the effort of straining your muscles may make you feel faint. There is medication for constipation, which you should take as prescribed. Speak to your GP or Parkinson’s nurse about your symptoms if you feel the treatment is not helping.

Try not to change position too quickly as this can make you feel dizzy

For example if you are getting dressed, you could do this in slow stages, sitting down. Learning to adapt and change the way you do things can be difficult, but it can lower the risk of potential problems, and help you stay independent.

Try to avoid bending over

Ask for help, or use other strategies and aids to get things from a lower level. Again, this takes a bit of adjustment, but can be worth it. Speak to an occupational therapist for more advice.

Take care when getting out of bed

Move slowly from lying to sitting to standing as blood pressure is naturally lower in the morning.

Consider raising the head of your bed by about 15cm

An occupational therapist or other health professional can advise you on this so speak to them if you are unsure.

Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks at night

Caffeine can increase the risk of dizzy spells when you get out of bed. This is because it is dehydrating and can make you want to urinate more at night.

Eat small, frequent meals, rather than a large heavy meal

Digesting food takes blood from your brain to your stomach and can cause people to feel faint after a large meal. Lying down or sitting still for a while after eating may help.

Try to avoid sitting or standing still for a long time

Moving about a little by rocking slightly, or gentle marching on the spot can stop your blood pressure from dropping. If you are sitting down you can march your legs on the spot and bend forwards a few times. You can also move your ankles and feet up and down to stimulate circulation before standing up.