orthostatic hypotension, dizzy

People who experience a sudden drop in blood pressure and feel dizzy when standing may be at greater risk for dementia later in life. Doctors call this experience “orthostatic hypotension” or “postural hypotension.” They worry that their older patients with this condition could fall and injure themselves (Aydin et al, Clinical Interventions in Aging, Jan. 25, 2017). Now, however, there is an additional concern. People who get dizzy upon standing or sitting up suddenly may be more likely to develop dementia later.

Postural Hypotension Linked to Dementia Risk:

That is the finding from a new study presented at the EPI/LIFESTYLE Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association. Researchers collected data from more than 11,000 middle-aged volunteers beginning in 1987.

The investigators were especially interested in people who had orthostatic hypotension. They defined this as a rapid fall in systolic blood pressure (20 points or more) upon standing up. Many of these volunteers felt dizzy at the same time.

Orthostatic Hypotension and Later Dementia:

Subjects who were found to have orthostatic hypotension when they enrolled in the trial were at 40 percent greater risk for dementia later in life. The volunteers were followed for at least 20 years.

The authors acknowledged that this is an association rather than a cause of dementia. That said, they pointed out that a sudden drop in blood pressure that leads to dizziness could be linked to diminished blood flow to the brain. Although this effect is temporary, it could conceivably have lasting negative consequences for cognitive function.

Presented March 10, 2017, at the American Heart Association’s EPI|LIFESTYLE 2017 Scientific Sessions in Portland, OR

Blood Pressure and Dementia in Sweden:

Another recent study also concluded that people who feel dizzy due to a drop in blood pressure when they stand up are more prone to dementia as they age. The Malmö Preventive Project in Sweden tracked 18,240 volunteers between 1974 and 2006 (Holm et al, European Journal of Epidemiology, online Feb. 11, 2017). Those whose diastolic blood pressure dropped when they stood up were more likely to develop dementia. Only two percent of the participants were diagnosed with dementia, so the overall risk was not high. However, it increased by about 22 percent with each 10 points that diastolic blood pressure fell.

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  1. Elizabeth
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I have had low blood pressure all my life. At 48 my rest BP is always between 100-110 over 50-60 and yes tying my shoe or getting up quickly gives me a rush. As a teen I was routinely 90/50. No doctor has ever said anything about ostostatic hypotention. Are my numbers not low enough?

    My father died because his heart was so damaged it didn’t get enough blood to the brain – hypoxia. It was a long drawn out death before our eyes. And now I hear I’m at risk for Alzheimers! Well just shoot me!

  2. Leslie
    Raleigh, NC
    Reply

    Yeah, I know what you mean. This isn’t something I have any control over. I’m slim and in shape, and not on any medication. I struggle with dizziness on a daily basis when rising from a squatting, standing or supine position.

  3. Martha D.
    Reply

    This information would be much more useful if there were something that could be done about it.

  4. Hank
    left coast
    Reply

    Reading this sort of thing makes my blood pressure go up.

    Keep publishing ….

  5. Sarah
    GA
    Reply

    Since this happens to both of my parents who are in their mid-80s, I’d appreciate knowing what they can do now to reduce their chances of developing dementia later.

  6. Karen
    Nashville, Tennessee
    Reply

    That is worrisome because I have postural hypotension. My doctors assure me it is benign. I’ve just learned to get up slowly. It is happening much less often since I started taking 200 mg magnesium at bedtime. I eat a moderate amount of salt but not from sources like fast and junk foods that I avoid. This is because I use a lot of fermented foods like sauerkraut and miso. I also eat a lot of vegetables and a few fruits a day.

  7. Edwin
    Manchester, NJ
    Reply

    I can’t believe that you printed this without including a statement that people that take certain drugs can also feel dizzy when standing. Is it your purpose to frighten your readers?

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      No, we didn’t intend just to frighten people. But perhaps medications that cause dizziness should be monitored more closely than they often are.

  8. Stephanie
    Missouri
    Reply

    Do the studies differentiate between Orthostatic Hypotension when rising from a prone position rather than a sitting position? Should one consider reducing medication to control high blood pressure if experiencing Orthostatic Hypotension?

  9. Marla
    Reply

    Well, that’s just great (sarcasm). What can be done to offset orthostatic hypotension? I don’t get dizzy when I stand from a sitting position but frequently when I stand from a squatting position I get dizzy. I have never immediately checked my bp while I’m dizzy.

  10. John
    MI
    Reply

    Hi, I have severe resistant hypertension and orthostatic hypotension is a side effect of the medication I’m taking. Was medication mentioned in the original research?

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