Dizziness can hit you at any moment. For most people, it seems to happen at the worst possible time. They are extremely disorienting and can take you a while to recover from them.
Despite the discomfort of dizziness, they are often harmless. At least, that was the general consensus among scientists and doctors. However, new research is challenging this consensus. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have found evidence that dizziness can increase a person’s risk of develop dementia.
Before delving into the details of the study, it is helpful that you are familiar with the causes of dizziness. The next section will give you some background on them.
A brief look at how to cope with dizziness
Dizziness often hits you suddenly and unexpectedly and can be alarming as you try to figure out why it happened. Occasional dizziness is not usually a cause for concern. However, if the dizziness recurs or lasts more than a few seconds, is an indicator of a more serious problem.
Causes of dizziness
Dizziness is often described in many ways. The most common description is that people feel as if the room is moving or rotating. Other definitions are: feeling of floating, feeling of imbalance or instability, feeling of fainting or feeling of heaviness.
There are many causes of dizziness and it can be difficult for a doctor to identify the cause without a full study. Dizziness is not usually the problem itself, it is usually a symptom of something else. Therefore, the cause is usually an underlying disease. One of the causes, the cause the study refers to, is low blood pressure (hypotension).
Like dizziness, low blood pressure can be caused by a number of problems. However, that is a discussion for another article. What is important is the type of low blood pressure mentioned in the study. It refers to a certain type of low blood pressure known as orthostatic hypotension (OHYPO). Sometimes it is also called postural hypotension.
OHYPO can be divided into OHYPO systolic or OHYPO diastolic. Systolic OHYPO occurs when the systolic blood pressure measurement falls 20 mm Hg or more within three minutes of standing from a sitting or supine position. Naturally, the diastolic OHYPO is when this happens with the diastolic blood pressure measurement, except the threshold is 10 mm Hg or more.
Orthostatic hypotension It occurs when your blood vessels do not constrict when you shift to an upright position. Usually, the body contracts the blood vessels temporarily to prevent gravity from pulling all the blood down while sitting or standing. If the blood vessels do not narrow, the oxygen supply to your brain is temporarily cut off, resulting in dizziness.
This can happen to anyone, and as long as it happens quickly, it is usually not a cause for concern. However, recurring problems can indicate something is wrong and, as the study shows, recurring problems can cause long-term problems.
The study was led by Dr. Laure Rouch, PharmD, PhD. Other researchers involved in the study were Jean-Sébastien Vidal, MD, PhD, Tina Hoang, MPH, Philippe Cestac, PharmD, PhD, Olivier Hanon, MD, PhD, and Kristine Yaffe, MD. The study was published in Neurology, a journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).
The purpose of the study was to determine whether chronic low blood pressure was a risk factor for dementia later in life. There were 2,131 older adults who participated in the study. They did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. The average age was 73 years and the group consisted of mixed demographics.
The researchers took frequent measurements of the participants’ blood pressure over a five-year course. This included keeping up with his systolic and diastolic measurements. To begin with, 309 participants had OHYPO, 192 had systolic OHYPO, and 132 people had diastolic OHYPO.
Various adjustments had to be made for external factors. Some of these included demographics, antihypertensive drugs, tobacco and alcohol use, and body mass index. An important adjustment was the presence of one or two APOE ε4 alleles. According to scientists, the presence of this allele is a high risk factor to develop Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
At the end of the study, 462 of the participants had developed dementia (21.7%). After adjustments, the study results showed that systolic OHYPO was associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. OHYPO diastolic and OHYPO were not. An association was also found in people whose systolic blood pressure ranged from postural changes.
What the results mean for the future
It is important to note that these results are preliminary. Research must be replicated and further analyzed before the theory is set in stone. However, this result sheds light on an area that could possibly be a link to a cause of dementia. It is a welcome theory as the pathology of dementia is very limited.
In addition to this, keeping your blood pressure under control is important anyway, as chronic blood pressure problems can lead to other problems. This study simply adds more importance to keeping people’s blood pressure at recommended levels.
Information about dizziness and the vestibular system
Both dizziness and hypotension are two conditions that may not receive as much attention as they should. When these two conditions occur, either together or individually, many people reject them as they only last for a short period of time. Even doctors can ignore these symptoms as minor problems.
The truth is, when taken together, dizziness and hypotension are part of the bigger picture, and it is surprising how many people face these conditions. Are part of an epidemiology Which consists of:
- Hyper and hypotension
- Susceptibility to motion sickness (MSS)
- Vasovagal episodes (VVE)
Researchers and doctors find that these problems generally occur in a combination of at least two or three of them rather than individually. More women than men have also been found to suffer from these problems in combination.
When these conditions are studied together, they are liked for being vestibular problems. This means that it is a condition of the inner ear, which is where the human body gets its balance from. However, vestibular functions are often linked to certain cognitive functions such as memory and emotions.
Based on this, it should come as no surprise that blood pressure problems are showing a correlation with cognitive disorders. Exploring this correlation can lead to an important advance in the resolution of vestibular problems in addition to dementia.
Signs that you have vestibular problems
Besides chronic dizziness, there may be other signs that let you know that you have problems with your vestibular system. Identifying these signs is important so that you can address problems before they get worse; You don’t want to wait until you deal with dementia to realize that vestibular problems were the problem all along.
The medical term for vestibular dysfunction is vestibular balance disorder. Dizziness and vertigo, especially when combined, are the main signs. However, according to John Hopkins Medicine, other signs are:
- Blurry vision
- Stumble or fall; losing balance
- Feeling disoriented
- Changes in the rhythm of your heart.
The last five signs are less common, but if you experience them along with the first three, this is a strong indicator of the disorder.
What’s interesting about vestibular balance disorder, blood pressure issues, and even dementia is the intricate ways they’re all related. The vestibular system (your ears) is made up of sensitive fluid-filled canals. This liquid is what tells your body when it is balanced or not. It is similar to a level that you would use in home construction or design.
Blood pressure problems come from intricate blood vessels that have problems and dementia comes from intricate brain cells that have problems. Essentially, they are all blood flow issues that point to one big shared factor: low oxygen levels. The body is incredibly assiduous in trying to fix this problem. It seems like it will shut down all systems in an effort to get it to do what it wants.
Everybody gets dizzy once on a blue moon. Most of the time there is nothing to worry about. They will last a few seconds, you will get over it and move on.
However, if they persist, it’s time to do something about it. As the study indicates, this can lead to much worse problems like dementia. You can fix the dizziness; Can’t fix dementia Therefore, you should consult a doctor about your dizziness immediately.
The hope is that the results of this study provide a path to a future solution for dementia. If dizziness is one of the causes, it is an easier solution than dementia itself. At the very least, it could decrease the number of people who develop incurable cognitive disease. Science continues to give hope to humanity and the study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego is a perfect example of the progress we are making.