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Lightheadedness linked to heart failure risk

Lightheadedness linked to heart failure risk May be used to identify those at risk

People who feel lightheaded when they move from lying down to standing up may be at a higher risk of heart failure, according to a new study.

The temporary lightheaded feeling, known as orthostatic hypotension, is caused by a sudden fall in blood pressure. But US scientists say it may also indicate that the person is at a greater risk of heart failure, as they found that people who experienced orthostatic hypotension were 54 per cent more likely to develop heart failure compared to those who did not.

Heart failure occurs when the heart does not pump with enough force, resulting in an inadequate delivery of blood to the body's cells and organs. Around 750,000 people in the UK are estimated to have the condition.

For the study, researchers at the University of North Carolina measured the blood pressure of more than 12,000 healthy adults aged between 45 and 64. Blood pressure readings were taken while lying down and shortly after standing up. The researchers then tracked the participants health for an average of 17 years.

During the time of the study, around 11 per cent of patients who developed heart failure had orthostatic hypotension compared with four per cent of those who did not. The researchers calculated that those with the condition had a 54 per cent higher risk of heart failure.

After adjusting for other factors which may increase the chances of heart failure, such as high blood pressure, the risk fell to 34 per cent.

The link between orthostatic hypotension and heart failure was stronger in people aged between 45 and 55, the researchers said.

"Orthostatic hypotension appears to be related to the development of heart failure along with other conditions known to cause heart failure," said Dr Christine DeLong Jones, who led the study.

"Hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease are already known to contribute to a person's risk of developing heart failure.

"Orthostatic blood pressure measurement may supplement what is already known about the risk for heart failure and requires no additional equipment, just a standard blood pressure cuff."

The study is published in the journal Hypertension.

This article was published on Tue 20 March 2012

Image © Cecilia Lim - Fotolia.com

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