PhotoHave you ever felt dizzy or lightheaded -- or even passed out -- when standing up from a sitting position? This phenomenon, called orthostatic hypotension, happens when the body’s blood pressure suddenly drops, but researchers say it could also indicate increased risk of dementia or stroke later in life.

In a recent study, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined over 11,000 adults who were tracked over a 25-year period. They found that participants who experienced orthostatic hypotension earlier in their lives showed a 54 percent higher risk of developing dementia than those who did not experience it.

“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,” explained study author Dr. Andreea Rawlings.

“Measuring orthostatic hypotension in middle-age may be a new way to identify people who need to be carefully monitored for dementia and stroke.”

Greater risk of dementia and stroke

At the beginning of the study period, participants took part in an initial exam that screened them for the presence of orthostatic hypotension. Each person was asked to lie down for 20 minutes and then stand up in a smooth, swift motion. In all, 552 participants showed a low enough drop in their blood pressure upon standing to be diagnosed with orthostatic hypotension.

By the end of the study period, the researchers found that participants who showed signs of orthostatic hypotension were 54 percent more likely than other participants in the study to develop dementia. Additionally, the researchers found that participants with orthostatic hypotension were twice as likely to suffer an ischemic stroke when compared to those without the condition.

The researchers believe that these findings may give health care providers another way to determine if an individual is more likely to suffer a stroke or neurodegenerative condition like dementia. However, additional studies will need to be conducted in the short-term to validate the findings.

“More studies are needed to clarify what may be causing these links as well as to investigate possible prevention strategies,” said Rawlings.

The full study has been published in the journal Neurology.


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