A fairly large study in the journal Neurology has found a correlation between feeling faint and dizzy when you stand up and a risk of dementia.
The study was carried out by a number of institutions including the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. In the research, 11,709 people with an average age of 54 took part over 25 years.
The participants were monitored for dementia and stroke, with 1,068 developing the former and 842 having a stroke caused by blocked blood flow to the brain (ischemic). They were also studied up to five times over the course of the research to monitor their blood pressure upon standing.
A drop in blood pressure upon standing is known as orthostatic hypotension, and it can cause people to feel faint, dizzy, or lightheaded. In this study 552 of the people taking part, 4.7 percent, had orthostatic hypotension at the start.
“Orthostatic hypotension has been linked to heart disease, fainting and falls, so we wanted to conduct a large study to determine if this form of low blood pressure was also linked to problems in the brain, specifically dementia,” said lead author Dr Andreea Rawlings from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a statement.
The results showed that people with orthostatic hypotension had a 54 percent higher risk of developing dementia than those who did not. Of those without orthostatic hypotension (11,156), only 9 percent (999) developed dementia. But 12.5 percent (69) of the people that did have it (552) developed dementia.
Those with orthostatic hypotension were also twice as likely to develop an ischemic stroke (15.2 percent compared to 6.8 percent).
“Measuring orthostatic hypotension in middle-age may be a new way to identify people who need to be carefully monitored for dementia or stroke,” Rawlings added in the statement. “More studies are needed to clarify what may be causing these links as well as to investigate possible prevention strategies.”
The NHS in the UK, commenting on the research, said that it was not certain yet that such hypotension directly caused the increase in dementia. And there was a major limitation in that the research did not follow up on the diagnosis of hypotension.
“This means we do not know whether people who had postural hypotension at the start of the study were successfully treated and it was no longer a problem,” they said. “We also do not know whether people without postural hypotension at the beginning of the study went on to develop it later.”
The cause of the link also isn’t clear, meaning that while the study is interesting, there’s still a way to go to look into it further.