Dr. Keith Roach: Comparing lightheadedness and vertigo | To Your Good Health

Dear DR. roach • • Why do older people tend to be lightheaded (not dizzy) and therefore may trip or fall? What is causing this and can something be done? I am an 83 year old woman who is afraid of tripping over the garden hose or my own feet. – AR

reply • I am glad you distinguished between lightheadedness and dizziness. Dizziness is a feeling of movement when there isn’t one. Most often it is a feeling that the world is spinning, but sometimes the person is spinning, or the movement can be up and down or from side to side.

On the other hand, lightheadedness is another feeling that is often described by people as passing out, which can sometimes happen if a person doesn’t sit down quickly.

Light-headedness can happen to people at any age, and while it happens to many teenagers, it is much more common in older people. One of the main reasons for drowsiness while standing is a relative lack of blood flow to the brain. The body has powerful mechanisms in place to keep blood flowing despite the dramatic shift in pressure required to send blood against gravity and to keep blood from pooling in the legs. These reflexes are a little slower in older people. I advise people to slowly change their position to give the body time to adjust. Move from lying down to a sitting position for a few seconds or a minute before standing up. After standing, make sure you are calm before leaving.

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