Can Eating a Meal Cause You to Fall?

by Bruce Montgomery Ph.D. August 07, 2016

Can Eating a Meal Cause You to Fall?

Yes. Your blood pressure can drop suddenly within two hours of eating a meal. This low blood pressure condition is called postprandial hypotension and it especially affects the elderly, even relatively healthy seniors. It affects up to one-third of older men and women (Harvard Heart Letter, 2015).

Postprandial hypotension is defined as a fall in systolic blood pressure of 20 mm Hg after ingesting a meal. It can cause the full spectrum of symptoms associated with other causes of hypotension, including syncope, falls, dizziness, weakness, angina, and stroke (O’Mara and Lyons, 2003).

Panesar (2011) lists the following factors that can lead to postprandial hypotension (PPH).

On a personal note, I had a fall in my home in 2014 after I ate way too much for dinner. I broke my 30-day Paleo diet that night with pizza and other yummy carbs and sweets. Sadly, I really gorged. I had been walking a lot that day and had not been drinking much water. So that combination resulted in a fall that left me with a broken neck and chronic pain to this day. I cannot conclusively state that I had postprandial hypotension that night, but I suspect that it was certainly part of the reason for my syncope and resulting fall.

Although this condition is not fully understood, the medical community does offer recommendations to reduce the chances of suffering postprandial hypotension, such as

  • Eating smaller meals several times a day – rather than two or three large meals each day
  • Cutting back on high carbohydrate foods made with highly refined flour, white rice, potatoes, and sugary beverages in favor of slowly digested whole grains, beans, protein, and healthy oils to keep your blood pressure up after a meal
  • Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, with 12 to 18 ounces of water 15 minutes before eating
  • To reduce your risk of syncope and falling, some suggest that you sit or lie down for 30-60 minutes after eating

These suggestions may sound familiar. They are basically what we should be doing to maintain a proper weight and balanced diet. Taking steps to prevent postprandial hypotension is basically a smart way to not only prevent falling but to also improve your health. A two-for-one gift to yourself!

As always, consult your doctor or other health professional prior to changing your diet or initiating an exercise program.

Sources:

Harvard Heart Letter. Eating can cause low blood pressure. (October 9, 2015) Harvard School of Medicine.

Luciano, Gina L., Maura J. Brennan, Michael B. Rothberg. Postprandial hypotension. The American Journal of Medicine. (March 2010) Volume 123, Issue 3, Pages 281.e1–281.e6

Omara, Gerard and Declan Lyons. Postprandial hypotension. Clin Geriatr Med 18 (2002) 307-321

Morley, John E. Editorial: Postprandial Hypotension—The Ultimate Big Mac Attack. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Panesar, Kiran. Hypotension: Postprandial and Orthostatic. US Pharm. 37(2): 44-50. (2011)

Weiss, James. Surprising cause of falls. www.Bottomlineinc.com (April 1, 2016) p 16




Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.
Bruce Montgomery Ph.D.

Author

Dr. Bruce Montgomery is a licensed building contractor in Michigan and Florida. He is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist as designated by the National Association of Home Builders. He has also achieved an Executive Certificate in Home Modification from the University of Southern California. He has a wide ranging educational background, including a Master of Science degree in Entomology, with a Master of Science degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in educational administration.




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