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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Eating can cause low blood pressure, from the Harvard Heart Letter

If you sometimes feel dizzy or lightheaded after eating a meal, you could have a common condition called postprandial hypotension, meaning low blood pressure after eating, reports the July 2010 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Digestion is a complicated job that requires coordination between the digestive, nervous, and circulatory systems. To compensate for blood going to the stomach and small intestine during digestion, the heart beats faster while blood vessels narrow. When the heart and blood vessels don’t respond as they should, blood pressure drops.

Postprandial hypotension announces itself as dizziness and lightheadedness causing some people to fall, others to faint. It can trigger chest pain, disturb vision, or cause nausea. In most people, postprandial hypotension stems from aging-related changes that interfere with the body’s ability to respond to sudden changes in blood pressure.

The Harvard Heart Letter notes that there is no surefire treatment for postprandial hypotension, but several lifestyle changes can make a difference:

Water before meals. Drink 12 to 18 ounces of water 15 minutes before eating.

Smaller meals. Larger meals are more likely to trigger the response than smaller ones. Try six or seven smaller meals a day.

Fewer rapidly digested carbs. Foods made with refined flour, white rice, and potatoes, as well as sugary beverages, pass quickly from the stomach to the small intestine, which contributes to postprandial hypotension. Eat slowly digested whole grains, beans, and protein to keep your blood pressure up.

Easy does it. Blood pressure usually hits bottom 30 to 60 minutes after a meal. Sitting or lying down for an hour after eating is another way to cope with postprandial hypotension.

Read the full-length article: "Eating can cause low blood pressure"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • July 2010 references and further reading
  • Strategies for cutting back on salt
  • Heat can beat the heart
  • Eating can cause low blood pressure
  • Potential salt assault
  • When and how to treat a leaky mitral valve
  • Heart Beat: Tape of meeting eases jitters before bypass
  • Heart Beat: Generic ARBs are coming
  • In Brief
  • Ask the doctor: Are there noninvasive alternatives to a nuclear stress test?
  • Ask the doctor: Does prednisone increase blood pressure?
  • Ask the doctor: What can I do to protect my heart if my body no longer makes testosterone?

More Harvard Health News »

About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.