How Blood Pressure Fluctuations Can Affect Parkinson’s Patients
I never thought much about my sister Bev’s blood pressure (BP) until I accompanied her to a dental appointment. The staff took her vital signs and told Bev, “Your blood pressure is a bit low today at 98/68 mmHg.” A normal BP for adults is usually in a range slightly less than 120/80 mmHg. The next time she visited the dentist, her BP was low again.
My sister has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD), and she usually struggles with short-term memory, gait, and balance issues. Bev and I were curious about a possible relationship between her low blood pressure and PD.
I asked Bev if she ever felt dizzy or lightheaded. She said, “Yes, sometimes I do. When that happens, I just sit down and drink some water.”
According to the National Parkinson Foundation, people with PD “may experience low blood pressure (hypotension) at some point during their disease progression. In fact, one in five people with PD are affected by orthostatic hypotension, also called postural hypotension: low blood pressure that is experienced when changing positions (e.g., moving from lying down or sitting to standing up).”
Some PD medications can also lead to low BP, including levodopa, dopamine agonists (ropinirole, pramipexole), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (selegiline). My sister takes selegiline. Any BP medications should also be carefully monitored by a physician.
Parkinson’s UK offers several tips for managing low BP with PD. These include getting up slowly from a reclined or seated position to prevent dizziness, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, eating smaller and more frequent meals, and moving around rather than standing or sitting in one position for a long time.
Bev eats several smaller meals throughout day, which also helps with her swallowing difficulties.
People with PD may also experience high BP, or hypertension. A 2013 study published in Brain and Behavior found that nocturnal hypertension is more common in Parkinson’s patients than in other patients. Study participants had their blood pressure checked every 30 minutes over a 24-hour period to catch any BP fluctuations.
Researchers concluded that, “Although hypotension is a severe risk factor for falling and syncope, we emphasize the importance of monitoring rather hypertension and fluctuating BP in PD patients that may lead to a variety of other undesirable conditions.”
Because BP fluctuation is common among those with Parkinson’s, it’s critical that patients or their caregivers frequently check this vital sign. Blood pressure monitors are available at many pharmacies and online stores, such as Amazon. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your primary healthcare provider and neurologist.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.