Q I have read a lot about hypertension, but not much about hypotension, which my friend suffers from. Having low blood pressure makes her very tired and occasionally makes her faint. What do you advise? - J.S. McMillan, Bristol
A Hypotension, or low blood pressure, is not as common as hypertension - nor is it of as much concern to doctors. That's probably why you hear so little about it. Hypertension is common because it is exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle and obesity and, so, is increasing in prevalence, given our modern Western lifestyles. It is also a potentially life-threatening condition, being a risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
In contrast, low blood pressure has no long-term adverse effects and is, in fact, associated with a longer life expectancy. No wonder insurance companies like clients with low blood pressure - they continue paying into life insurance policies for longer.
However, hypotension can be an impediment as its main symptoms are fatigue, feeling faint and intermittent headaches. These are all the result of oxygen-carrying haemoglobin not being transported quickly enough around the body. It is dangerous only because sufferers could fall and injure themselves on fainting.
Feeling faint and dizzy is particularly noticeable when standing up quickly, which should be avoided. The effect is worsened by a hot bath, as the heat causes blood to migrate away from the organs and towards the periphery of the body.
One solution, according to panellist Dr Harald Gaier, is to supplement with organic iron. The liquid iron formula Floradix doesn't come with the usual side-effects of standard iron tablets. If taken as indicated, it should provide your friend with enough iron to transport the required oxygen via her blood circulation more efficiently.
The headaches should cease too, as these familiar low-grade throbbings are simply the brain complaining that it isn't getting enough oxygen.