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HeadWay, Issue #131 -- Low Blood Pressure and Migraine
June 22, 2015

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In this issue:

Low Blood Pressure and Migraine

Say what?! Diastolic Pressure

Low Blood Pressure and Migraine

Jean from the United States wrote in asking for information about low blood pressure and migraine. It's actually a very interesting question, so we're going to take a look today.

Jean referred to a book - I believe she may have been talking about Fighting The Migraine Epidemic: How To Treat and Prevent Migraines Without Medicines by Angela A. Stanton, in which the author states that most migraine sufferers have low blood pressure (pg 13,89). Unfortunately, Stanton doesn't footnote the claim (and it seems to be highly based on conversations with migraine patients). So we're left to check the facts on our own.

How is blood pressure measured? A healthy person's blood pressure should be lower than 120/80 mm Hg. But if the first number dips below 90, and/or the second number dips below 60, your doctor may tell you that your blood pressure is low.

Now, blood pressure can go up and down all the time. If you're not experiencing any symptoms, there's probably nothing to worry about. But one question is - could migraine be a symptom, or be related?

Not all migraine patients have high blood pressure, or low blood pressure, on a regular basis. You blood pressure may change in unusual ways during an attack - some patients may experience low blood pressure during a migraine attack.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence that hypotension (low blood pressure) is a significant factor for most migraine patients. But could it be a factor for some?

Low blood pressure and headaches may go together in some cases. You're probably looking at a second condition that is causing the low blood pressure.

Some possible causes of low blood pressure that may be related to migraine and/or headaches:
  • low blood sugar levels
  • dehydration
  • blood loss
  • a lack of nutrients, such as vitamin B-12 and folate
  • certain medications
Now things start to get very complicated - what causes things like "low blood sugar" (it could be a number of conditions)? Are you not ingesting enough nutrients, or is there another digestive problem that is keeping them from being properly absorbed?

Some of the solutions are simple. Make sure you're drinking water and replacing salt to fight dehydration, especially during exercise on a hot day. Get your vitamin B12 from fish, red meat, dairy products and eggs (if you're a vegetarian or vegan, look for "fortified" grains, or take a supplement). Folate - also a migraine fighter - can be found in spinach, avocado and broccoli.

Your meds may also lower your pressure. Propranolol and verapamil are common examples. Look up the medications you take to see if they may be related.

The bottom line is this. If you're concerned about your low blood pressure, and a possible connection to headache or migraine, talk to your doctor. Also, take note of any unusual symptoms, or changes in symptoms, that could help diagnose and underlying condition that needs to be treated.

Blood pressure that is a little low is probably nothing to worry about. However, you know your body best. Listen to what it's telling you.

For more information, see Low blood pressure (hypotension)

Say what?! Diastolic Pressure

A study linked to above suggested that some patients may have low diastolic pressure around the time of a migraine attack. Diastolic pressure refers to the second number you'll see given for blood pressure. For example, if your blood pressure is 110/70, 110 is systolic pressure and 70 is diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is higher - that's when your blood is actually pumping - during a heart beat. Diastolic is "at rest" pressure - the pressure in-between beats.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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