Frequent feelings of dizziness several minutes after getting up may signal an underlying health problem, according to new research published in Neurology.

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Researchers say people who often feel dizzy after getting up may be at greater risk of a serious health condition called orthostatic hypotension.

On getting up, a sudden drop in blood pressure may lead to dizziness, lightheadedness or even blurred vision, though it could simply be due to dehydration or medication.

However, if it happens often, it could be an indicator of something more serious taking place called orthostatic hypotension (OH), according to new research undertaken by a team at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA.

OH is the lowering of blood pressure after changing position. This might occur within 3 minutes of getting up or sitting down.

The research team looked at the medical records of 165 people who had undergone nervous system testing – a test undertaken to see whether the autonomic nervous system is functioning normally.

Of these individuals, 48 had been diagnosed with delayed orthostatic hypotension (DOH), 42 had been diagnosed with OH – a more serious form of DOH – while 75 had neither condition. The average age of participants was 59.

During the 10-year follow-up period, 54% of individuals with DOH progressed to OH, while 31% developed a degenerative brain disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia with Lewy bodies – disease caused by abnormal protein accumulation in the brain. Those with DOH who also had diabetes at study baseline were more likely to develop the full condition than those without diabetes.

The rate of death among study subjects was 29% for those with DOH and 64% for those with OH. For those with neither condition, the death rate was 9%.

For subjects with DOH who progressed to OH, the death rate over 10 years was 50%.

Many of those with DOH who did not develop the full condition were taking medication that may have affected their blood pressure, according to the researchers.

Commenting on the results, study author Dr. Christopher Gibbons, of Harvard Medical School, says:

Our findings suggest that more than half of people with the delayed form of this condition will go on to develop the more serious form of this disease,” says study author l.

Our findings may lead to earlier recognition, diagnosis and treatments of this condition and possibly other underlying diseases that may contribute to early death.”

The researchers say there are limitations to the study. For example, because it was a retrospective review of previously collected data and all participants were referred to a specialized center for nervous system tests, the findings may not apply to the general population.

Last year, Medical News Today reported how dizziness and headache could be symptoms of stroke.

Written by Jonathan Vernon