LIGHTHEADEDNESS: ITS SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS

Dizziness, Fainting, Falls, Orthostatic Hypotension, Heart rate and rhythm, Cardiac output and Perfusion, The Autonomic Nervous system,

Falls and Injury are all very interconnected. They all tend to accumulate as we age, but the young are not immune to these conditions. In all of these discussions,

I make the ASUMPTION that you have these conditions in an undramatic, infrequent, moderate way, and are not burdened by Risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. Stroke is always a worry lingering in the background, and will be discussed at the end of the series.

I will begin with DIZZINESS AND FAINTING. The amazing thing is that we are able to walk upright all day without falling. We can surprisingly lie on our backs, suddenly get up and run away seamlessly, or at least we were able to do these things, most of the time. Our bodies almost magically supply our brains and balance mechanisms with the right amount of blood and nourishment ALMOST all of the time.

Everybody gets dizzy if they spin around enough, and even young people can faint if they stand long enough in one place. Dizziness and fainting is usually considered normal if there is a good explanation. It is when they are too sudden, too severe, last too long, or happen too frequently that we seek medical Help.

Dizziness can mean “lightheadedness” without the room spinning. This is often more concerning than Vertigo, since it more often is due to a lessening of blood flow to the brain. When we get up suddenly from a sitting or lying position, the blood may pool in our abdomen and legs, with consequent insufficient pumping of blood to the brain.

This happens at 1G to civilians, but it takes about 5Gs for young jet pilots to need their “blackout” suits. Instead of blackout suits, we can use support-hose, or even a constricting pants-suit which includes our lower abdomen.

I have also been using a buzzer-timer which reminds me to walk every 10 minutes, to keep me from staying in my comfortable lazy-boy too long. I try to walk rapidly and breathe deeply, and believe this helps keep my body “toned up” and responsive for when I stand up rapidly.

The other way to adapt would be to “baby” my body, and stand up more slowly. There are always the opposite ways to respond: go easy, or push the body and expect it to adapt. If you are worried, your Family Doctor can help you and suggest a path forward .

Perhaps you are overmedicated, need medication, or some tests would help clarify the situation. Vertigo is where the room seems to be spinning. You might be able to tell whether it is spinning clockwise or counterclockwise.

The most common cause is BPPV, or benign periodic positional vertigo, and you can wait it out. Look it up on the internet for parameters. Persistent Vertigo can also be due to inner ear (labyrinth) problems. which an ENT Doctor can address.

For more details, I have included a couple of good articles. A discussion of Falls is next in this series.

–Dr. C.

Reference #1

Reference #2

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