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Low Blood Sugar Effects: Headaches and Potential Blood Pressure Impact

Christie Borders, MS, CNS

Published in Glucose

6 min read

February 17, 2022
December 8, 2023
a person using finger prick method to test glucose level
a person using finger prick method to test glucose level

Did you know that there is a relationship between low blood sugar and high blood pressure? Many people think that high blood pressure and low blood sugar are two different things.

But, in reality, the two are pretty connected! Low blood sugar can lead to high blood pressure, which then, in turn, leads to low blood sugar. It’s a dangerous cycle that can have severe consequences if left untreated.

Your body needs energy to function, and it gets that energy from blood glucose. Your body derives this glucose from carbohydrates broken down from our meals. When you need more energy, your body sends insulin to take the glucose from your bloodstream to your cells, where it’s used as fuel. 

Sometimes, the body releases too much insulin, which can lead to too much sugar in the cells, causing low blood sugar. Another cause is not eating enough or skipping meals, which can cause too little sugar in the blood. 

Can Low Blood Sugar Cause High Blood Pressure?

a person measuring blood pressure

Yes, if your blood sugar is too low, it can lead to high blood pressure. According to Dr. Lydia Williams, this can be due to "an overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that help regulate the body's response to stress. When blood sugar levels drop too low, these hormones can kick in to raise them back up."

When your blood sugar is low, your body releases a hormone called adrenaline to help raise it. Adrenaline is responsible for increasing your heart rate and constricting your arteries, which leads to even higher blood pressure.

If you have both high blood pressure and low blood sugar, it’s essential to take steps to keep your levels stable. But what actually is low blood sugar, and what causes it? Low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia, is a condition in which your blood glucose levels fall below the normal range.

There are many potential causes of low blood sugar, and this condition can occur even if you’re working to prevent it and monitoring your diet closely. If you have diabetes, you may have an increased risk of developing hypertension, which causes your arterial walls to become pressurized. Hypertension can also make your heart work harder to continue to allow blood to flow seamlessly through your arteries.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to monitor if you’re experiencing high blood pressure because there are often very few obvious warning signs. Here’s how to understand your blood pressure readings, according to guidelines from the American Heart Association:

blood pressure readings

Warning Signs That You Might Have High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a condition in which the pressure of the blood that flows through your arteries is higher than usual. Over time, high blood pressure can damage organs like your heart. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of the adults in the United States have hypertension. 

Dr. Williams adds, high blood pressure is often "referred to as the silent killer because it typically has no symptoms until it reaches a dangerous level." That’s why it’s essential to know how to detect high blood pressure so you can get treatment if needed. There are several ways to measure blood pressure, including at-home tests and blood pressure monitors. 

Consult a healthcare professional without delay if you have difficulty breathing, fatigue, vision problems, nosebleeds, and blood in your urine.

a list of symptoms of high and severe high blood pressure

Other Side Effects of Low Blood Sugar

a person checking their glucose level

When you eat, your body breaks down your food, some of which becomes glucose or blood sugar. Your body will take most of this glucose and use it to fuel your cells, but it also sends some of the excess glucose to your liver, which stores it for later use. Meanwhile, your pancreas produces insulin to control the sugar levels in your blood so that they don’t rise too high. Insulin helps your body process sugars. 

If you haven’t eaten in a long time, your body will release hormones from your pancreas to tell your liver to release the glucose that it has stored back into your bloodstream. Your body will then use that glucose to regulate the energy your cells need until the next time you eat. 

When your blood glucose levels dip too low, your cells don’t have enough energy to use—this is hypoglycemia. Your body produces insulin to prevent your blood sugars from rising too quickly. Still, sometimes it makes too much, which can cause it all to dip dangerously instead. Knowing what to watch for and how to treat low blood sugar can help keep you healthy and safe. 

Short-Term Effects of Low Blood Sugar

Did you know that having low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia) can have short-term effects on your body? For example, a low blood sugar headache, also known as a hypoglycemia headache, can occur when blood sugar levels drop below normal ranges. This headache is often accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, emphasizing the importance of maintaining stable blood sugar levels through balanced meals and timely snacks.

It’s vital to regulate blood sugar levels if you have diabetes and experience any of these symptoms so you can take steps to raise them immediately. 

Some of the short term effects of low blood sugar include:

  • Fast Heart Rate
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger Pangs
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Cheek or Mouth Numbness 
  • Pale Skin

Long-Term Effects of Low Blood Sugar 

Experiencing a low blood sugar episode can be a frightening experience. Keeping your blood sugar levels stable is key to preventing health complications. But what are the long-term effects of low blood sugar?  

Some of the long term effects of low blood sugar include:


Best Practices For Preventing Low Blood Sugar

a person cutting tomatoes

You may not always know when your blood sugar levels are too low, which is why it’s essential to understand your body’s dietary needs. It will help you keep your blood glucose levels within a healthy range. Diabetes can be one of the causes of hypoglycemia. But some of the other culprits here include smoking, excessive drinking, certain medications, hormonal deficiencies, and insulin overproduction. 

Hypoglycemia usually occurs when you have gone a long time without eating, but that is not always the case. Another possible cause is long-duration exercise or high-intensity exercise, especially when done in the fasted state. This can lead to the depletion of liver and muscle glycogen, which can also cause hypoglycemia.

If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels within the target range is critical for your health. But even if you don’t have diabetes, it’s crucial to understand how to prevent and treat low blood sugar

Here are some tips to help you out: 

  • Eat regular meals at consistent times.
  • Prepare food ahead of time when life might prevent you from missing a meal—yes, a little meal prepping goes a long way! 
  • Use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to monitor your glucose trends in real-time.
  • Keep heavy carbohydrate snacks on you when you leave your home so that you have a quick fix if you start experiencing symptoms.
  • Work with your doctor and a registered dietitian to refine your diet to your unique needs.
  • Limit your alcohol intake (alcohol can cause sudden dips in your blood sugar levels). 
  • Staying active with cardio and strength training and regulating weight gain can support healthy blood glucose levels.
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Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

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When you join the Nutrisense CGM program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

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Katie Kissane, MS, RD

Reviewed by: Katie Kissane, MS, RD

Katie is a dietitian at Nutrisense. With over 11 years of experience as a dietitian in many areas of nutrition, Katie has worked as a clinical dietitian within a hospital, as well as in the fields of diabetes, sports and performance nutrition, recovery from addiction, and general wellness. She’s also an athlete and has run 8 marathons, including the Boston Marathon.

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