Fainting is more likely as we age

There are steps one can take to lesson the symptoms of syncope, a leading cause of fainting as we age.

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Lifestyle

March 10, 2022 - 3:36 PM

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Dear Dr. Roach: I recently fainted for the first time in my life, requiring a trip to the emergency room. There I was diagnosed with acute syncope. I am 95 years old and in pretty good health, with my numbers being all good. My blood pressure and heart rate are fine. I walk and exercise a little every day, and I have had three cardiac stents. What can I do to prevent such attacks in the future? I was advised that this episode resulted from dehydration, so I am drinking two to three glasses of water a day. This was a very scary experience. — E.Z.

Answer: “Syncope” (from the Greek roots meaning “cut short”) is the medical term for sudden loss of consciousness. Most cases are due to a drop in blood pressure leading to poor blood flow to the brain. There are many possible underlying causes, but the most common is a condition called vasovagal syncope, also known as a common faint.

We think of fainting, perhaps based off of media depictions, as a condition of young people, but the older you are, the more likely you are to faint. As we age, the body’s ability to regulate tension in the blood vessels to rapidly adjust to different needs under different body positions decreases. We need more time to adjust. 

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