Having low blood pressure with a high pulse can be a normal response to specific situations, such as after exercising or standing up too quickly. Sometimes, underlying conditions or life threatening situations, such as shock, cause the symptoms.
Low blood pressure by itself may not be an issue unless it causes symptoms. Some people with low blood pressure may experience mild to moderate symptoms.
The normal range for blood pressure is below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for many healthy adults. While there is no precise cutoff point for low blood pressure, the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute (NHBLI) consider low blood pressure to be anything below 90/60 mm Hg.
In general, a high pulse or heart rate is more than 100 beats per minute. Other factors may cause variations to this number as well.
Anyone uncertain whether their symptoms are due to low blood pressure with a high pulse should see their doctor. Sometimes, a person may require emergency medical attention, such as if they are suffering from shock.
Keep reading to learn more about what may cause low blood pressure and a high pulse.
The cause of low blood pressure with a high pulse varies. Sometimes, symptoms occur after a specific activity, such as standing up too quickly, while others result from an underlying issue.
Sometimes, having low blood pressure leads to a higher pulse, but this is not always the case.
When a person has low blood pressure, the blood flow that pushes against the arteries’ walls is weaker than normal. If the blood pressure is particularly low, the heart may struggle to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the organs.
In response, the body might increase the heart rate to push more oxygenated blood to the organs. This process may cause a combination of low blood pressure and high pulse.
Low blood pressure and a high pulse can cause the following symptoms:
- buckling of the legs
- blurred vision
- tiredness, or fatigue
- a headache
Additional symptoms can include pain in the chest (angina), head, and neck, and reduced cognitive ability, such as difficulty concentrating.
There are a few situations when low blood pressure and a high pulse may happen, though the exact cause will vary from person to person.
Sometimes, standing up too quickly may cause a temporary spike in pulse with a drop in blood pressure.
This condition, called orthostatic hypotension, is generally temporary. The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) note that the condition is common, and some people may not experience any symptoms.
When moving from a prone (lying down on the back) to a standing position quickly, gravity forces blood downward. This leads to extra pressure. The extra pressure means that the heart has to work harder against the force of gravity to pump the same amount of blood around the body.
If the heart suddenly cannot do so, the body responds by narrowing the blood vessels and increasing the heart rate to get the blood moving back towards the heart.
The effects of this are generally short-lived and go away as the body successfully adjusts to the change in position.
Exercise may also cause temporary increases in heart rate. The American Heart Association note that exercise causes the heart to pump faster to allow for more blood to reach the muscles.
As the heart beats faster, the blood vessels dilate to allow more oxygenated blood to travel around the body, supplying the muscles with the oxygen they need. Because the dilated blood vessels allow the blood to pass through easily, blood pressure may increase by a small amount.
However, there are some situations where a person’s blood pressure may fall during and after exercise:
- If a person doesn’t breathe properly while exercising, the heart may not be able to pump enough oxygen around the body. This can starve the brain of oxygen, causing dizziness.
- Working too hard during a workout can result in a drop in blood pressure, leading to lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.
- Losing too much water through sweat and exercising in the heat can lead to a drop in blood pressure.
The heart rate does not return to normal immediately after exercising because the heart keeps pumping faster than normal to ensure the muscles have enough oxygen.
How long it takes for the heart to reach its normal resting rate may depend on personal factors and overall health.
Other underlying conditions
An underlying condition or issue can also cause a high heart rate and low blood pressure. The American Heart Association list several underlying issues that may cause symptoms of low blood pressure, including:
- nutrient deficiency
- heart problems
- endocrine problems, such as hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease
- alcohol use
- severe infection
- allergic reactions
Certain medications may also cause symptoms resulting from low blood pressure. These may include:
- other drugs for high blood pressure
- drugs for Parkinson’s disease
- tricyclic antidepressants
- narcotic drugs
- drugs for erectile dysfunction
In other cases, low blood pressure and a high heart rate may point to a medical emergency. Extremely low blood pressure may prevent the organs from getting the oxygen they need, which could lead to life threatening shock.
Signs of shock include:
- a weak, rapid heart rate
- low blood pressure
- shallow but fast breathing rate
- clammy, cold, pale skin
- confusion or disorientation
Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek emergency medical attention.
Having low blood pressure is not always an immediate cause for concern. Many people with low blood pressure are unaware that they have it. Doctors may only consider treatment for low blood pressure if it causes troubling symptoms.
People who experience temporary symptoms of low blood pressure, such as lightheadedness or increased heart rate after standing up too quickly, should sit down to rest until the symptoms subside.
People who frequently experience these symptoms must take great care when moving from a prone position to standing to avoid falling.
If a medication causes symptoms of low blood pressure, doctors may recommend switching medications or lowering a dosage. A person should only change their medication under the guidance of a doctor.
The NHLBI note that some people may not need treatment for low blood pressure at all. However, for those that do, possible treatments may include:
- drinking water to avoid dehydration
- taking medications to raise the blood pressure
- changing eating habits
- wearing compression stockings
Doctors will discuss specific treatment options with the person in each case.
Treatment for high pulse will vary according to a range of factors.
It is helpful to try to identify when the pulse first began to rise. Some episodes of a high pulse may be temporary. For example, if a person develops a high pulse after moving from a prone to a standing position too quickly, the heart might beat more quickly to compensate for gravity’s effects.
People who experience bouts of low blood pressure or high pulse while moving from a prone to standing position could try to slow down these movements to help avoid the issue.
Exercising may also lead to a high heart rate, especially if a person is not very fit. This is because the heart may start beating faster even after a person attempts minor exercise.
If a person notices that their heart is beating faster, finding ways to calm the body and brain may help. A person can try slowing down their breathing rate or practicing guided meditations to help them relax and reduce heart rate.
If the heart rate does not go back to normal or if a person is worried, contact a doctor for a full diagnosis.
Anyone who experiences worrying symptoms of shock should seek emergency medical attention.
People who experience mild but uncomfortable symptoms of low blood pressure may also want to talk with their doctor to discuss treatment options.
Anyone uncertain or uncomfortable about symptoms such as low blood pressure and high heart rate should see a doctor as well. A full diagnosis can help bring peace of mind and identify any underlying issues.
Having low blood pressure is not always a cause for concern. A high pulse with low blood pressure may occur for various reasons. Some people may regularly experience a higher heart rate than normal, as the heart pumps more to make up for their lower blood pressure.
Sometimes the heart rate rises temporarily after standing up quickly or after a workout. They are not usually a cause for concern.
Sometimes, the combination of low blood pressure and a high pulse signifies that the body is not getting enough oxygen. This may put the body at risk for shock, which can be serious.
Anyone who suspects their body is going into shock should seek immediate, emergency medical attention.