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Low blood pressure linked to depression

GALVESTON, TEXAS. Excessively low blood pressure has long been considered a disorder in continental Europe and has been treated with many remedies and medications ranging from coffee and cold showers to ephedrine and amphetamine. In the United States and the United Kingdom, on the other hand, the prevailing wisdom is that the lower the blood pressure the better.

This assumption may now be about to change following a ground- breaking study carried out by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The researchers studied 2723 Mexican Americans aged 65 years or older. Participants were interviewed to determine their level of depression and fatigue as well as their self-reported health status and degree of self-esteem. They also had their blood pressure measured at two separate occasions. Seven hundred and seventy-eight (29.7 per cent) of the study participants had a low diastolic pressure (i.e. below 75 mm Hg), 428 (15.9 per cent) had a low systolic pressure (i.e. below 120 mm Hg, and 265 (9.9 per cent) had both diastolic and systolic hypotension.

The researchers found that participants with hypotension were more likely to be depressed, had lower self-esteem and global self- reported health, and were more likely to wake up tired in the morning than were participants with blood pressures in the normal range (systolic pressure between 120 and 139 mm Hg and diastolic pressure between 75 and 84 mm Hg). The low blood pressure correlation with depression, etc. was independent of whether the low blood pressure was inherent or caused by the use of blood pressure lowering medications (antihypertensives). Participants with both low diastolic and low systolic pressures were almost 2.5 times more likely to be significantly depressed than were participants with normal blood pressures.

The researchers conclude that there is a definite association between low blood pressure and depression and warn that over- treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension) could conceivably result in depression.
Stroup-Benham, Christine A., et al. Relationship between low blood pressure and depressive symptomatology in older people. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 48, March 2000, pp. 250-55
Robbins, Michael A., et al. Low blood pressure and depression: comorbidity and competing outcomes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 48, March 2000, pp. 336-37 (editorial)

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