Blood pressure: high blood pressure and low blood pressure

Education Health & Fitness News

What is high blood pressure and low blood pressure?

The heart pumps blood into the blood vessels by contracting with each heartbeat and then relaxing again. This gives a certain pressure in the blood vessels, the blood pressure. The blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure meter and is expressed in two numbers. The first number is the upper pressure: the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart contracts. The second number is the underpressure: the pressure when the heart relaxes.


We speak of high blood pressure (hypertension) if the upper pressure is 140 or higher, or if the lower pressure is 90 or higher. Low blood pressure (hypotension) occurs if the blood pressure is lower than approximately 90/60.


In most cases (95%) the cause of high blood pressure remains unknown. The following risk factors are known: kidney disease, alcohol consumption, eating liquorice, excessive salt use, smoking, being overweight, little exercise. The most common causes of low blood pressure are dehydration, an allergic reaction, infection, fainting (vasovagal collapse), blood loss, a heart attack or arrhythmia, alcohol and certain medications. Low blood pressure can also occur without a reason for it being found.

Which complaints indicate high blood pressure and low blood pressure?

High blood pressure rarely causes symptoms.


People with low blood pressure can suffer from ‘orthostatic hypotension’, or the occurrence of low blood pressure with postural change such as when standing up. With low blood pressure there is insufficient blood flow to various organs. The brain suffers the most because they need the most blood. This temporary lack of blood in the brain is expressed by a light feeling in the head (see also ‘ dizziness ‘), fainting or unconsciousness.


For people with an intellectual disability it is sometimes not possible to make the complaints mentioned known. The environment may then only notice a change in behavior.

How often do high blood pressure and low blood pressure occur in the general population?

Between the ages of 30 and 59, 20.1% of Dutch people have high blood pressure.


The prevalence increases with age. In the elderly aged 50 to 70, 49.4% have high blood pressure.


Only 0.15% of the visits to the general practitioner per year concern complaints due to (orthostatic) low blood pressure.

How often do high blood pressure and low blood pressure occur in people with intellectual disabilities?

A prevalence of hypertension of 17.4% was found in Dutch adults with an intellectual disability, which is comparable to the general population.


In elderly people between 50 and 70 years old, high blood pressure is just as common as in the general population (49.3%). The prevalence for the entire group of elderly people with an intellectual disability is 53.0%, according to the Dutch GOLD study. 5


Within the population of people with an intellectual disability, high blood pressure is more common in people with an older age, people with obesity, people with a lighter intellectual disability and people who can do their shopping independently. People with Down syndrome have less high blood pressure.


High blood pressure is more common with the william syndrome, the bardet-bidl syndrome, the gymnast syndrome and the prader-willis syndrome (secondary to the overweight).


No data was found on the prevention of low blood pressure in people with intellectual disabilities. It is known, however, that people with Down syndrome have low blood pressure more often  2 and that low blood pressure can occur as a side effect with certain behavioral medication. 0.28% General population (high blood pressure)17.40% People with intellectual disability (high blood pressure)

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