This entry is a summary of the video “Corsets and Blood Pressure” which you can watch on YouTube here:
As is seen in the video, without a corset my blood pressure was 117/80, which is close to the normal BP of 120/80.
About 5 minutes after lacing down approximately 4 inches in one of my underbust corsets, my blood pressure read 122/88. I will explain what this means at the end of this entry.
Firstly, how does blood pressure work?
When a fluid is travelling through a tube, the pressure depends on a few aspects:
- the volume of the fluid (how much is there?)
- the viscosity of the fluid (how thick or watery is it?)
- the capacity of the tube in a given distance (how much can the tube hold?)
- the speed and strength of the pump (your heart)
The systolic pressure (higher number) is the pressure of the blood when your heart is making the pumping motion, so this is highest pressure. The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the blood pressure at the moment that your heart is resting between pumps, so this is the lowest pressure your blood has. At any other time in the motion of the “pumping”, your blood pressure is somewhere between the systolic and diastolic pressures.
Most of the time (excluding when a woman is pregnant) a healthy person will have about the same amount of blood and the same viscosity. This means that blood pressure will mostly depend on the size of the “tube” (arteries and veins). The smaller or skinnier the blood vessel, the higher your blood pressure becomes. Today, one of the most common causes of high blood pressure is arterial plaque. As plaque builds up on the inside of your arteries, the circumference through which the blood has to travel decreases in size. Your heart has to work harder to pump the same volume of blood through it, and your blood pressure increases.
A study on blood pressure and support belts
In 1989, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study called The Effects of a Weight Training Belt on Blood Pressure During Exercise. This study demonstrated that when weight lifting, the support belts that the men wore increased their blood pressure. After testing my own blood pressure in and out of a corset several times, I realized that corsets can do the same! This makes sense, as the pressure from a tight belt or corset can constrict the blood vessels in the abdominal region, making it harder for blood to flow through that region.
How corsets can cause low blood pressure
Let’s consider the first part: your corset is just being tightened and your circulatory system hasn’t responded yet. Since all things are affected by gravity, what usually happens is the blood more easily flows to the lower region of the body, but has difficulty getting pumped back up to the heart. This will cause a greater volume of blood and a greater pressure in the legs compared to in the upper torso, arms and head, where pressure is lower. (By the way, weak valves in the veins can also cause blood pooling in the legs and varicose veins, which is why many older women wear compression stockings to help get the blood back up out of the legs).
Low blood pressure and the “swooning / fainting” lady
If a woman’s blood pressure was low to begin with, then after she puts the corset on, it might be this decreased blood pressure in the upper body (particularly the head) that contributed to a lady swooning or fainting – the stories of women fainting from lack of oxygen or breathing difficulties are largely rumours. (On a separate note, it is also possible to feel “faint” from too much oxygen, which is why hyperventilation causes light-headedness.)
Why does a person faint from low head blood pressure? When a person faints, their body falls down from a vertical to horizontal position. When you’re lying down, your head is at the same level as your feet – your blood pressure becomes more uniform all throughout your body (relatively speaking, lower in the legs, higher in the head). When your brain gets enough blood and enough oxygen, you regain consciousness!
How corsets can cause high blood pressure
Now let’s consider the second part: say you have a strong circulatory system and your heart has adjusted to the tightness of your corset. The harder it pumps blood down to the legs, the harder the blood gets pumped back up to the heart – this is a good thing; you’re not pooling blood in the lower half of your body. But the body can only control pressure in a certain part of your circulatory system so much; it can’t control the lower and upper halves of you body independently, so the blood pressure everywhere else (i.e. above the corset in the chest, head, arms) is increased as well.
High blood pressure and the “upset lady’s nosebleed”
Have you ever heard of the myth that a lady shouldn’t get angry lest she get a nose-bleed? This is because (corset or no corset) when a person becomes scared, angry or upset, the blood pressure rises in the whole body as part of the “fight or flight” response. If any blood vessels in that person’s body has a thin or weak lining, then high blood pressure can cause that lining to break. Often the nose has thin, delicate blood vessels, so if blood pressure is high enough it can cause a nose bleed. If this happens in any delicate vessels in the brain, it’s called a stroke.
My corseted blood pressure, 122/88, is considered pre-hypertensive; however I didn’t demonstrate how this pressure can change after the body has settled in the corset for a few hours. Nonetheless, based on the study done in 1989, my personal experiment and the BP monitoring of other tightlacers, it’s been shown that a corset can indeed raise your blood pressure somewhat. To what amount will be different for everyone. This is important because if you are a more mature person who is interested in corseting, if you’re not in optimal health and/or if you are predisposed to hypertension, you must approach waist training with caution.
I will return to this topic at a later time, at which I’ll monitor my blood pressure regularly throughout the day and during various emotional states to demonstrate the large range of blood pressures in one person.
Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: Know thyself (including thy medical stats).
*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*