How to Manage Your Blood Pressure to Monitor Adrenal Fatigue
Depending on your stage of adrenal fatigue and your presenting symptoms, managing your condition may involve measuring your blood pressure at home. With these measurements, you and your healthcare provider can get better sense of how you’re doing day-to-day. Many low-cost blood pressure monitors are available for home use; you can ask your pharmacist or healthcare practitioner for guidance in choosing one.
You measure your blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff. In our experience, you get the most reliable results from devices that use an arm cuff. You strap the cuff on your upper arm and squeeze a bulb to pump it up, or if you’re using a digital model, you push a button and the cuff inflates automatically. Then wait for the readings. The digital models give you easy-to-read numbers.
Measure your blood pressure lying, sitting, and standing if you’re able. At the very least, try to measure your blood pressure when going from a sitting position to a standing position. To obtain an accurate blood pressure reading, you should maintain each position for at least 90 seconds before checking your blood pressure.
For example, after you change from a sitting position to a standing position, stand for at least 90 seconds (if you can) before taking a blood pressure measurement. If you’re symptomatic when you stand (that is, lightheaded or dizzy), take your blood pressure sooner or better yet, have a family member or significant other take your blood pressure if possible.
If you feel like you’re going to faint, sit down! If you’re feeling that lightheaded or dizzy when standing, this is a very strong indication that you need treatment.
Your healthcare provider will likely instruct you to measure your blood pressure on a regular basis, a least once each day. For example, to keep it simple, you may be asked to measure your blood pressure in the morning when you wake up and before dinner. Doing measurements this way helps you pinpoint the point in the day when you’re having problems with blood pressure.
How to raise your blood pressure
In the early stages of adrenal fatigue, adrenal hormones can elevate your blood pressure. High blood pressure is called hypertension. Most physicians define hypertension as a blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg (a systolic blood pressure above 140 or diastolic blood pressure above 90).
It's no secret that stress, illness, and inflammation can elevate blood pressure, and a significant contributor is the increased production of the adrenal hormones cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and especially aldosterone.
What to do with low blood pressure
When adrenal fatigue begins to become adrenal burnout, you can develop low blood pressure (technically called hypotension), even when you're lying down. Over time, as your adrenal glands are further fatigued, you see a gradual lowering of your baseline blood pressure.
In the last stage of adrenal fatigue, which is adrenal exhaustion, blood pressure can be very low because the adrenals aren't producing enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone to maintain the blood pressure.
A strict definition of low blood pressure is a value less than 120/80 mm Hg. That being said, everyone's normal is different. Some people's baseline blood pressure is as low as 90/40 mm Hg, and they feel fine and dandy with that blood pressure. For others, their blood pressure is often higher. The point is to understand what your normal is and to look for changes from that normal.
Why you get dizzy when you stand up
Orthostatic hypotension, or feeling dizzy when you stand up, is one of the commonest symptoms of adrenal fatigue. This symptom often occurs in advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, when the adrenal glands are unable to produce more aldosterone and cortisol, which you need in order to regulate your blood pressure when you sit up or try to stand.
Decreased blood flow to the noggin is why you can feel lightheaded or dizzy when you change from one position to another.
Here's how it works: When you change from a lying position to a sitting or standing position, your body has built-in regulatory mechanisms to make sure the blood flow gets to your brain. The adrenal glands increase production of cortisol, aldosterone, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.
These hormones increase the activity of your nervous system (specifically, your autonomic nervous system) to try to raise your blood pressure. When your adrenal glands are really worn out, they can't increase the production of these hormones, so you have a blood-flow problem and a nervous-system problem. No wonder you feel dizzy!
When you go to your healthcare provider, begin by telling him or her about any dizziness. Then the practitioner should measure your blood pressure while you're lying down, sitting, and standing.
When your blood pressure is taken in the healthcare practitioner's office, you get only one measurement. To get a fuller picture, measure your blood pressure at home. Please refer to the earlier sidebar Taking your blood pressure at home.
Your healthcare provider may strongly suspect adrenal fatigue if your blood pressure doesn't increase when you stand up or if it decreases. A systolic blood pressure that doesn't increase by 10 mm Hg upon standing can strongly indicate adrenal fatigue. This is called Ragland's sign (see the nearby sidebar Let's get physical: Reading specific signs of adrenal fatigue).