Feeling lightheaded when standing up could be warning sign of dementia

Feeling lightheaded when standing up could be a warning sign of dementia, study says

  • Orthostatic hypotension occurs when your blood pressure suddenly drops when changing from a sitting position to a standing position
  • People with this condition in middle-age were 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia 
  • They also had twice as great a risk of developing an ischemic stroke, which occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked due to a blood clot

Feeling lightheaded when you stand up could be a warning sign of dementia, a new study has found.

Researchers say that those who feel faint upon standing could be experiencing  orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden decrease in blood pressure.

Their findings showed that people with this condition in middle-age were about 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia and twice as likely to suffer a stroke.

The team, from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, says the findings show a new marker that medical professionals can spot early on to prevent, or delay, the onset of age-related diseases.

Feeling lightheaded or dizzy upon standing could raise your risk of dementia or stroke, a new study has found (file image)

When you stand up after sitting or lying down, the body works to send blood and oxygen towards the brain.

If this does not occur, your blood pressure can fall significantly, creating what is known as orthostatic hypotension.

Symptoms of the condition include lightheadedness, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue and fainting. 

There are many potential causes, some of which include aging, anemia, dehydration, and certain medications such as beta blockers.

Treatment for orthostatic hypotension depends on the underlying cause. If it is due to dehydration, doctors will suggest an increase in fluid intake.

If the medication is the cause, then your doctor might change the type of prescriptio or the dosage.

Another treatment comes in the form of compression stocking, which stops the buildup of fluid in the legs when a person lies down or sits.  

‘Orthostatic hypotension has been linked to heart disease, fainting and falls,’ said study author Dr Andreea Rawlings, a biostatistician at Johns Hopkins University.

‘So we wanted to conduct a large study to determine if this form of low blood pressure was also linked to problems in the brain, specifically dementia.’

For the study, researchers followed more than 11,700 participants over the course of 25 years.

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The participants, who were 54 years old on average, did not have a history of stroke or heart disease at the study’s start.

At the beginning of the study, the team asked the participants to lie down for 20 minutes and then quickly stand.

Blood pressure was measured once while resting and five times while standing. They found that about five percent of the group began the study with orthostatic hypotension.

Participants were monitored for stroke and dementia either through the visits every five years or from their medical records. 

Over the course of the study, about nine percent of the participants developed dementia and a little more than seven percent suffered an ischemic stroke, which occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked due to a blood clot. 

The findings showed that the participants with orthostatic hypotension at the study’s start, even with treatment, were 54 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not have the condition.

Nine percent of those without orthostatic hypotension developed dementia in comparison with 12.5 percent of the people with the condition.   

Additionally, people with orthostatic hypotension had twice the risk of suffering from an ischemic stroke.

Around 15 percent of people with the condition had this type of stroke while about seven percent of people without it had an ischemic stroke.   

‘Measuring orthostatic hypotension in middle-age may be a new way to identify people who need to be carefully monitored for dementia or stroke,’ Dr Rawlings said. 

‘More studies are needed to clarify what may be causing these links as well as to investigate possible prevention strategies.’ 

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