People who feel dizzy, faint, or light-headed several minutes after standing up may be at risk of serious health conditions and even an increased risk of death, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.
Feeling dizzy after standing up is due to a sudden drop in blood pressure and can be triggered by medication use or dehydration. When it occurs often, it can be a sign of a more serious condition called orthostatic hypotension, which is defined as a drop in blood pressure within three minutes of sitting or standing.
When the condition occurs more than three minutes after standing, however, it is known as delayed orthostatic hypotension, a less serious form of the condition. However, this delayed version may eventually develop into the more severe version of orthostatic hypotension.
“Our study looked at delayed orthostatic hypotension, when the drop in blood pressure happens more than three minutes after standing or sitting up,” said study author Christopher Gibbons, M.D., with Harvard Medical School in Boston and a Fellow with the American Academy of Neurology.
“Our findings suggest that more than half of people with the delayed form of this condition will go on to develop the more serious form of this disease. This is also the first study to date suggesting the disease is a milder form of the more common and serious disorder.”
For the study, researchers reviewed the medical records of 165 participants with an average age of 59. Participants completed nervous system testing and were followed for 10 years. Of those, 48 were diagnosed with delayed orthostatic hypotension, 42 had orthostatic hypotension, and 75 did not have either condition.
The findings show that over a 10-year time period, 54 percent of participants with delayed orthostatic hypotension progressed to orthostatic hypotension and 31 percent developed a degenerative brain disease such as Parkinson’s or dementia with Lewy bodies.
The rate of death over 10 years was 29 percent for people with delayed orthostatic hypotension, 64 percent for those with orthostatic hypotension (the more serious form of the disease) and nine percent in people without either condition. The death rate over 10 years for those with the delayed condition who progressed to orthostatic hypotension was 50 percent.
Participants with delayed orthostatic hypotension who also had diabetes at the beginning of the study were more likely to develop the full condition than those without diabetes.
Many of the people with the delayed condition that did not develop the full condition were taking medications that may have affected their blood pressure, such as diuretics, antidepressants and high blood pressure drugs.
“Our findings may lead to earlier recognition, diagnosis and treatments of this condition and possibly other underlying diseases that may contribute to early death,” said Gibbons.