Health Library Explorer

February 2021

Feel Dizzy When You Stand? Here’s Why to Tell Your Doctor

 

You’re sitting or lying down. You leap up. Suddenly, you’re dizzy and lightheaded.

Many people have had this experience. But for some, these sensations occur regularly when they stand or sit up. They may also have headaches, blurred vision, and nausea, or even faint and fall down.

These are all signs of a condition called orthostatic hypotension, which doctors have long linked to heart problems. Now, a new study suggests it might have consequences for the mind, too.

Why dizziness strikes

Orthostatic hypotension happens when your blood pressure drops suddenly. Your body’s vital organs—including your brain—then lack oxygen and nutrients. That’s why you feel weak and dizzy or pass out.

In addition to a sudden change of position, this can happen when you:

  • Strain on the toilet

  • Feel anxious

  • Have eaten a large meal or had alcohol

  • Exercise

Sometimes, treatment for high blood pressure can lead to orthostatic hypotension. The condition can also be linked to problems like diabetes, heart failure, or Parkinson’s disease. Dehydration and low levels of vitamin B-12 may play a role as well.

The link to later brain health

Sitting down may help the problem in the moment. But as the new study suggests, there could be long-term issues.

In a group of more than 2,000 older adults, about 300 had orthostatic hypotension. Those who did had a 40% greater risk of developing dementia during a 12-year follow-up. Why? Over time, periods of low blood flow could hurt brain tissue or the blood vessels that nourish it.

Stopping the spin

If you’re feeling dizzy regularly, talk with your healthcare provider. Finding the cause can point you toward a treatment that steadies your blood pressure—and keeps you standing tall.

 

These steps may help:

  • Ask your provider if you should change any medicines.

  • Be sure to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.

  • Move around a bit before getting out of bed or a chair—for instance, wiggle your hands and feet. Then, rise slowly, making sure you have something stable to grab onto.

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2020
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