It’s not uncommon for people to experience light-headedness when standing up from a seated or recumbent position. On the whole, there’s no reason to panic over this, as it’s rarely associated with a serious condition.
If you’re wondering why do you feel dizzy when standing, the short answer is due to fluctuations in blood pressure. There is more to it than that and in some cases it could merit medical attention. Keep reading to find out why it happens and when to start worrying.
Blood pressure plays a crucial homeostatic role in the human body. If the pressure drops below a certain normal range or shoots above it, you can experience a slew of problems.
When blood pressure is significantly higher than what is considered normal, it’s called hypertension. Blood pressure below the normal range is called hypotension. When we stand up, we experience what’s known in medical terms as orthostatic hypotension.
Also called postural hypotension, orthostatic hypotension is essentially caused by gravity and inertia. Blood, as distinct from many other components of the body, is liquid and therefore doesn’t move when our muscles move. Human body can be construed as sort of a container with blood in it.
Imagine a balloon filled with water. If you put that balloon on the floor and then yank it quickly into the air, it will stretch many times its normal length before the water is pulled up with it. This is because of inertia and gravity. In a similar way, inertia and gravity pull the blood down towards our legs when we stand up quickly.
This pooling in the lower extremities reduces blood pressure in the upper body. That reduced pressure in the organs, especially the brain, briefly deprives it of oxygen and causes slight dizziness.
What Causes It?
The inertial pooling of blood in the legs is the proximal cause of dizziness when standing. However, that begs the question: why doesn’t it happen every time we stand up?
The truth is that it shouldn’t be happening at all in an ideal scenario. Our bodies have a series of safeguards to prevent this reaction that come online before you even become aware of the decision to stand up.
It’s also a good idea to remain active, in general. An active lifestyle can help improve overall cardiovascular health and help alleviate problems with orthostatic hypotension.
The heart beats faster to saturate your system with oxygen when you stand up. And blood vessels in the legs constrict to both increase blood pressure and prevent blood from pooling within them. In elderly people, these safeguards are much slower to react and so the dizziness can be exacerbated.
If you’re experiencing dizziness every time you stand and over long periods of time, there may be some other things aggravating the condition.
If it’s just mild light-headedness or if it happens occasionally, there’s no cause for alarm. It doesn’t even need to be treated, nor paid special attention. That said, if it’s becoming a nuisance, it may have something to do with one of the following confounding factors.
Since the problem is related to a dip in blood pressure, it stands to reason that blood pressure medications can make it worse.
This can be somewhat complicated in terms of removing the cause. The medications may be necessary but it could also be that a lower dose could alleviate the problems with orthostatic hypotension.
This includes medications such as diuretics, which indirectly lower the blood pressure by reducing blood volume.
By the same token, not getting enough fluids can contribute to lower blood pressure as well. This is especially true for people who experience orthostatic hypotension when they wake up. During the night, we lose significant amounts of water which also lowers blood volume.
If you’re chronically dehydrated, the fix could be as easy as making a habit of drinking more water. Adults should get around two liters of water a day to maintain proper hydration. You might also experience dehydration after exercising, so additional fluid intake is recommended if you’re physically active.
If the problem is overnight dehydration, it’s not quite so simple. Chugging a lot of water before going to bed can interfere with sleep. If you’re waking up every few hours to go to the bathroom it’s hardly a solution.
Instead, take your time getting out of bed. Go from a recumbent position to a seated position for a few minutes before standing up.
Eating Big Meals
Digestion is an energy-intensive process for the body. A lot of blood and other resources get diverted to the digestive tract which means there’s less resources available to other areas of the body.
If you are wondering why do you feel dizzy when standing after a meal, this could be the cause. Any period of extended immobility can also contribute to the problem. If you’re seated for a long time while eating, these factors can reinforce each other.
The solution to this problem isn’t very complicated. Try to eat smaller meals or try spacing them out. If you’re trying to generate a calorie surplus, it may be better to just space out your meals than to reduce them.
Chronic Kidney or Heart Conditions
The chances that you have a chronic heart or kidney condition that has remained undiagnosed aren’t very high. However, you should know that there is a potential link between orthostatic hypotension and serious chronic illnesses.
If you’re experiencing moderate to severe dizziness accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, heart palpitations, headaches, and or blurred vision, you should consult with a physician. It’s better to be on the safe side, even if it ends up being something benign such as too many visits to the fridge.
Don’t Ignore the Signals
The fact that you’re reading this article is an indication that you’re taking your health seriously, even when it comes to something as harmless-sounding as light-headedness.
If you’re only experiencing it occasionally or when you first wake up in the morning, it’s not likely to be anything other than dehydration. On the other hand, if the problem persists and starts to impact your quality of life, it’s probably time to consult with a doctor. It may be a question of adjusting your medications or introducing some healthy lifestyle changes.