‘Blood pressure’ is a measure of the force which your heart uses to pump blood around your body. It's important to try and maintain a healthy blood pressure, because high blood pressure (hypertension) and low blood pressure (hypotension) can lead to a range of medical problems.
If you have seizures, it is helpful to know about the link between epilepsy and high blood pressure (as well as low blood pressure). Here’s what you need to know.
The connection between epilepsy and high blood pressure/low blood pressure
We are still learning about the link between blood pressure and epilepsy. So far, most of the research has looked at how blood pressure changes when people have seizures.
- High blood pressure and seizures
Scientific studies have found that when people with epilepsy have seizures, their blood pressure usually leaps significantly above their normal levels - often by about 50%. For most people it will come back down to their normal level within a few minutes of the seizure ending.
- Low blood pressure and seizures
Research has also found a link between low blood pressure and seizures. For some people, their blood pressure goes lower than usual after a seizure, and remains lower for quite a long time.
- Blood pressure and seizure type
Research also shows that different kinds of seizures affect people’s blood pressure in different ways. For example, people who have focal unaware seizures have a much greater increase in blood pressure during their seizures compared to people with focal aware seizures.
Can blood pressure cause epilepsy?
There is some evidence of a connection between high blood pressure and epilepsy. One study found that older people who have high blood pressure are 2.5 times more likely to develop epilepsy compared to people with normal blood pressure levels.
Blood pressure and health risks for people with epilepsy
Some scientists think that there could be a link between blood pressure and Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). Because seizures can cause people's blood pressure to go very high or also to drop very low, this could do dangerous things to their body, including making their heart stop working, or causing a stroke – which is when not enough blood goes to the brain.
Living with epilepsy and high blood pressure
Because high blood pressure is closely associated with a wide range of health risks - including cardiac arrest - it is important to try and keep your blood pressure in a healthy range (this is a blood pressure reading less than 120/80 mmHg - ask your doctor if you’re unsure of your current blood pressure). The good news is that there are numerous simple lifestyle changes you can make to get your blood pressure to a safe level, including:
- Eating healthy
- Not smoking
- Managing stress
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Eating less salt
If you are concerned about your epilepsy and high blood pressure, speak to your doctor. They can help you design a management plan to bring down your blood pressure levels through changes to your diet and exercise. While also ensuring you are managing your seizures too.