First in a series

Didja miss me?

I haven’t been out of Internet access, but I’ve lacked the energy to post. Which has, of course, resulted in an incredible build-up of things I ought to or would like to post about. Rather than cramming them all in one monstrously long entry that nobody would read, I’m going to tackle one general topic at a time.


First off, health. As some of you know, my father went in for bypass surgery last week, and I flew home for it. He is doing very well — out of the hospital already, with only minor complications so far, knock on wood. So that’s one of my stressors deleted off the list.

Speaking of stress, though — funny story. My father gets out of surgery, I go in to see him, and come very close to passing out next to his bed. Which is odd, because I’m not generally a squeamish person, and standing in the ICU did not distress me in ways that typically result in fainting. Then I remember that I’ve been having problems with light-headedness lately, for about a week or two. When we get home that night, my mother trots out a home blood pressure cuff, in order to test a theory.

Now, I know those aren’t the most accurate things in the world, but even with a margin of error, 84/43 is kind of on the low side.

I’ve always had fairly low blood pressure; 100/60 is my usual. 84/43 is putting me in the territory of the bridesmaid who fainted at my wedding. (I suddenly understand how these things happen. And hey, add it to the list of things I can write about effectively.) Anyway, this is something I will consult a doctor about if it continues, but right now I’m curious. I mean, I thought stress was supposed to raise one’s blood pressure, not lower it. Does anybody have insight on/experience with this? Is it likely to be connected to a blood sugar issue? I’ve never had problems with hypoglycemia, but I kept testing myself with that cuff, and food most definitely affects the results.

I really don’t know what to make of this, except for a detached, intellectual interest every time my head goes kind of floaty and I feel like I’ve been hyperventilating.

So, yeah. Anybody with useful info on this matter, feel free to offer it in comments. I am, as I said, quite curious.

0 Responses to “First in a series”

  1. squishymeister

    How odd. I’m not a “fainty” person either, and one of the two times in my life I’ve almost fainted when was my grandpa was talking about his quad bipass surgery.

  2. mrissa

    I have low blood pressure (96/56 is my norm), and it was something we had to sort out from the vertigo, as in, yes, I get lightheaded and fainty from low blood pressure, but this is not that. But yes, I sometimes get lower blood pressure with stress, and I have hypoglycemic issues, too. The combination can be annoying, but I haven’t considered it cause for alarm so far. Except when I fall over, and I’m probably less alarmed by that than I should be.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yes — I stopped to make sure that no, what I was feeling was not vertigo; they’re entirely different feelings.

      Interesting that you have that reaction to stress. It inclines me to think that maybe I, too, buck the conventional wisdom.

  3. clodfobble

    Sodium intake will definitely affect blood pressure–as in more sodium will give you higher blood pressure, and less sodium/more water will give you lower blood pressure–but I’ve never heard of sugar levels being connected to it.

    And while stress does usually raise blood pressure, depression will lower it, and the one can sometimes masquerade as the other.

  4. gollumgollum

    The “my head goes kind of floaty and I feel like I’ve been hyperventilating” sounds a bit like hypoglycemia…What’s the relation with eating/not eating? Does it happen when you haven’t eaten all day, or yet that day, or in several hours?

    *puts on the Teacher k8 hat* If it’s simply hypotension, there are several possible causes, but all of the serious ones (hemorrhage, cardiogenic shock, spinal cord injury) are pretty easy to rule out. (; Your BP isn’t honestly that low; a little lower than your baseline, yes, but not something i’d really freak out about without sufficient cause, especially since your baseline is low to begin with. More than likely, if you were my patient i’d call a doctor and (unless you had some serious heart issues) they’d order a bolus of normal saline – aka water and a little salt. So the best self treatment i can recommend is to drink some water (please notice that i didn’t say a whole lot of water, as water poisoning is also bad, m’kay) and go hit the drivethrough at McDonald’s and get yourself an order of large fries.

    The other thing to note is that home blood pressure cuffs (and the ones at your local pharmacy) have a relatively wide margin of error; it’s possible you were actually much closer to your baseline than the cuff was reading. However, you were demonstrably symptomatic, so there’s some cause for concern, or at least for paying attention.

    Now. All that said, i would advise the following: Keep track of when you feel lightheaded, and why, and how (do you also get sweaty and irritable, do you have trouble making decisions? A good list of hypoglycemia symptoms can be found here: – and can help you differentiate between hypoglycemia and hypotension). Keep track of what you’ve eaten, and when, and how much (Are you eating a lot of carbs and not much protein, or vice versa? Are you eating a lot of salt? How much water did you have to drink that day?). Because frankly, if you go to the doctor (which is also not a bad idea), being able to say “when i this, then that happens” will be WAY helpful. Especially since the doctor is likely to ask you to keep a food/activity diary.

    Regardless, hypotension is a *way* better problem to have than hypertension. But it’s not undeserving of a doctor’s visit, especially if it’s interfering with your daily life, or if you pass out, or happen to be hemorrhaging somewhere.

    (That’s a joke.)

    (Although if you are hemorrhaging, stop, do not pass go, do not bother to call me first, go to the ER double-stat.)

    *takes off Teacher k8 hat* And hey, welcome back! Also, i posted something on my LJ just for you… *evilgrin*

    • Marie Brennan

      Now that I’m watching for it, I’d say it seems to happen when I haven’t eaten in a few hours; I was kind of light-headed around 4, having eaten lunch a little before 1, frex. The incident in the ICU came when I hadn’t eaten for about five hours, and had gotten very little sleep the night before.

      I did have lunch after that one, though, and then tested my pressure maybe three hours later, which is when I got the 84/43. I’m sure the margin of error is worth considering, but that’s part of why I kept taking data points; I did the test the same way every time, and if I’d eaten recently the results were more like my usual baseline.

      Sweaty: in the ICU, yes; not so much at other times, but that was distinctly the worst incident. Irritable: possibly. Trouble making decisions: yeah, for the last month or so. <g> (I’ve kind of tired out my decision-making capabilities, I think. But I know my difficulty in ordering dinner tonight grew directly out of my ravenousness.)

  5. fjm

    Low blood pressure: welcome to my world.

    If you have a tendency to low blood pressure, then stress and over heating will cause it to drop. I have no idea why. In Europe this is treated. In the UK and America we are told not to be so silly.

    Things that help:
    1. Stay hydrated. If you are tense or stressed, make sure you drink. The best day by day solution is about three inches of juice in a pint glass topped up with water. Three times a day.
    2. Rehydrating salts: if you can get them in powder form, carry them. However, the bad news is that while I can get them in powder form in the UK and Canada I have never been able to source them in the US.
    3. In the absence of Rehydrating salts, use Gatorade. Disgusting stuff, but does the tricl.
    4. Eat regular and often (five times a day, never more than five hours between food, but a packet of nuts at 11am is an acceptable “meal”).
    5. Keep cool. Watch out for UK department stores for example which aren’t air conditioned and tend to over-heat.
    6. Be careful of too much travel and overnight flights. Make sure you are well hydrated for both even if that means constantly going to the loo.

    Finally: should you be prone to stomach upsets, get checked for celiac. Low blood pressure is sometimes associated with it. Mine has been much better since I changd diet.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: Low blood pressure: welcome to my world.

      Definitely not celiac; I chow down on wheat with regularity, in many available forms, and no adverse effects.

      Heat has never really bothered me, and I certainly haven’t seen any correlation between my environment and my faintness. I’m going to be more careful about salts, though, and snacking in general. (I have a bad tendency to forget to eat for long stretches of time; it may be that my body is just saying “I’m tired of putting up with this crap.”)

      Given the timing, I think stress is the most central component, now that I know it can have that effect. But I shouldn’t assume the problem will go away when the stress does.

  6. d_c_m


    First – Glad your Dad is ok. Whew! That is good news.

    Second – I too have low blood pressure and sometimes get light-headed when I stand up. I have been asked by nurses if I am alive. That’s about it for me. I don’t really know what affects it and frankly I’m ok with low blood pressure. It’s fun reading about it in your LJ so thanks for posting.

    Be well.

  7. coyotewatches


    First off, I’m glad to hear your father is doing better!

    On your health.. Yikes! Sucko! Given what I’ve read so far and knowing my own symptoms, it sounds like you’ve got some hypoglycemia going on. This took me YEARS to finally get the hang of. YEARS.

    Three question – what happens when you eat a medium to large meal AFTER you’ve gone a period of not eating? What happens if you eat a snack or meal that is mostly sugary and bad for you, especially for breakfast? (pancakes with syrup, big slice of yummy cake, Chocolate death sundae) Finally, when you do get a chance to eat do you feel like the world “comes back into focus?” I’ve been known to look around after eating and say, “Oh… look at the colors,” because everything seems more focused and bright and well, cool.

    I would highly recommend that you keep healthy snacks around you all day. Try to eat small meals regularly. I keep everything from fruit to power bars to rice snacks near me all day and graze constantly. At events, because I often go the entire day without seeing a chance to sit down and eat, I take anywhere from 5 to 12 power bars with me for the week. (Four of which are always with me on the plane.) On a typical work day, I have something close to six meals a day counting snacks.

    The best thing you can do, and being a fellow stubbornite about my strength and willpower I can understand, is to NOT push yourself to go without eating. “No, I’ll be fine, lets keep going,” will get you in trouble. 😀

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: Sympathies

      It really isn’t so much pushing myself as forgetting. I’ll realize I’m hungry, and I’m at the computer, so I think, “okay, I’ll go get breakfast when I’m done with this thing,” and next thing I know I’ve been up for four hours without food.

      I don’t notice any particular effect from the food scenarios you describe, except maybe a tendency to be sleepy after a big meal, but I think that’s pretty normal.

  8. silme

    I’m hypoglycemic and have had very low BP in the past when I was younger — as in 90/50. I’d be very lightheaded then, as in feeling rather woozy when standing in a library (I was an undergraduate then) and looking up at a top shelf.

    Do check with a doctor. It could be a sodium issue also.

    Also, I’m glad your father is recovering nicely.

  9. lady_puck9999

    Stress could cause you to forget to eat or drink, and dehydration and lack of salt could make you faint, or at least seriously drop your blood pressure. It happened to me while walking around Manhattan, and many other times in the same vacation. My doctor told me to up my salt intake and drink lots of water.

    My blood pressure is insane low, too, so that might be part of it.

  10. airycat

    Two things caused me to stop and comment.

    1) I’ve always been told that when the top number goes below 90 to check with your doctor. It’s starting to get too low. (do several readings on a home bp cuff)

    2)Food, water and electrolytes. You may need frequent small meals rather than 3 square meals a day. My sister tells me she found that something other than regular Gatorade works as well and tastes better. She also makes a point of getting enough protein. (for a normal day schedule, early protein meals are better than dinner protein)

    Glad you dad is doing well. y mom had double bypass last summer and over all she’s done very well. She’s pretty much back to normal.

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