Some people who feel dizzy or lightheaded when they stand up may have an increased risk of developing dementia years later, according to a new study.
As you age, you may have noticed becoming dizzy when you stand. This is due to a temporary drop in blood pressure – known as orthostatic hypotension – and this reduced blood flow could cause damage to your brain.
The incidence of orthostatic hypotension increases with age. One US study found that every elderly participant had some degree of orthostatic hypotension.
The study found the link with dementia only in people who suffered a drop in their systolic blood pressure (systolic blood pressure is the top number in your blood pressure reading), not those who had a drop in their diastolic blood pressure or their blood pressure overall.
Study author Dr Laure Rouch said the research, which involved 2131 people with an average age of 73 and who did not have dementia when they enrolled, highlighted a possible way to help stop cognitive decline.
“People’s blood pressure when they move from sitting to standing should be monitored,” Dr Rouch said.
“It’s possible that controlling these blood pressure drops could be a promising way to help preserve people’s thinking and memory skills as they age.”
In the study, a blood pressure reading was taken when people were first enrolled and then one, three and five years later.
A total of 15 per cent had orthostatic hypotension, 9 per cent had systolic orthostatic hypotension and 6 per cent had diastolic orthostatic hypotension.
Over the next 12 years, the participants were evaluated to see if anyone developed dementia. A total of 462 people, or 22 per cent, developed the disease.
The people with systolic orthostatic hypotension were nearly 40 per cent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not have the condition.
Fifty of the 192 with systolic orthostatic hypotension, or 26 per cent, developed dementia, compared to 412 of the 1939 people without it, or 21 per cent.
When researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect dementia risk, such as diabetes, smoking and alcohol use, those with systolic orthostatic hypotension were 37 per cent more likely to develop dementia.
The researchers also found that people whose sitting-to-standing systolic blood pressure readings changed the most from visit to visit were more likely to develop dementia years later than people whose readings were more stable.
Do you experience dizzy spells? How often do you have your blood pressure checked? Does your blood pressure often drop suddenly? Are you concerned about your dementia risk?
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