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Dealing with Dizziness: The Causes and the Cures

"There are so many people who deal with vertigo and dizziness, and it's not really talked about."

Dizziness is one of the most common health complaints among older adults. 

Today Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD and holistic nutritionist, will look at the causes of dizziness and vertigo as we age, and what to do about it!

Video Highlights

  • 01:27: Dizziness may be a side effect of a minor or major health issue
  • 02:30: Dizziness is one of the most common health complaints among older adults
  • 03:32: If you feel dizzy, always pause, sit, and lie down
  • 04:37: Dizziness is a side effect of nearly every prescription drug
  • 04:44: Age-related changes in the body can lead to it as well
  • 05:07: Cause 1: dehydration or overheating
  • 07:09: Cause 2: Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is the number #1 cause of dizziness and vertigo
  • 09:55: Cause 3: Stroke or mini-stroke
  • 10:18: Cause 4: Medications
  • 10:58: Cause 5: Anemia
  • 11:56: Cause 6: Meniere's Disease
  • 13:42: Cause 7: low blood sugar/hypoglycemia
  • 15:14: Cause 8: low blood pressure
  • 15:46: In general, dizziness is not an emergency, but it can be. Watch out for accompanying symptoms

Do You Experience Sudden Dizziness?

We've all stood up a little too quickly from time to time and been met with a wave of dizziness. Or maybe you've gotten a food bug or something that makes the world seem to spin. There are many reasons why we can feel temporarily dizzy. 

If your dizziness is not from an obvious cause, it may be a side effect of a minor health issue, such as the flu or other virus. It may not be a serious problem... or could it?

How do you know if your dizziness is normal and has an easy fix, or a sign pointing you to something more serious?  

The Causes and Cures of Dizziness

Dizziness is one of the most common health complaints among older adults. But there is a silver lining! Most of the time, if you're experiencing dizziness, it's not something serious. However, it's still important to take care of the problem when you can. 

Though the dizziness itself is not serious, it can lead to a fall, an injury, a trip to the ER, or even a car accident if you are driving while dizzy. That's why the very first thing to do if you feel dizzy, is pause. Sit and lie down if you're able to. Do not try to drive, pick up children, or make big life changes while dizzy.

Dizziness is much more common with older adults than younger folks for two reasons.

  1. It's a side effect of nearly every prescription drug and many over the counter medication.
  2. Age-related changes in the body can cause dizziness

So let's discuss the most common causes so that next time it happens, you'll be able to quickly recognize it and know what to do.

8 Common Causes of Dizziness

Dehydration or Overheating

If you've been in the heat, or on a long plane ride, are ending a workout in a heated room, or even just forgot to eat or drink for a while because you've been busy, you may experience dizziness. 

If you feel like the room is spinning and can't find your footing, have some water or orange juice right away. If you're dehydrated or overheated, you may experience a drop in blood sugar, and the juice contains a simple sugar that can boost your blood sugar levels almost immediately. Also make sure you tell someone! If you live alone, call a friend or ask him or her to check back on you in 15 minutes or so.

After you've had a drink and a little rest, see if the feeling passes. If dehydration or overheating are the cause, you should recover quickly. If not, make sure to see your doctor or healthcare professional.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

This is a very common condition, which causes severe dizziness when you stand up from a crouching or sitting position. The older you get, the more likely you are to have BPPV and this is because this type of dizziness is caused by age-related changes in your inner ear. It's the cause of over half of all dizziness in people over 50, according to the Vestibular Disorders Association. In fact, it's the number 1 cause of dizziness and vertigo. There's a good chance this will happen to you, but it's not serious. Just make sure you pause, sit down, or lie down.

BPPV is referred to as positional dizziness because it often happens if you sleep with your head in a particular position. Talk to your healthcare professional or doctor and try some head positioning techniques designed to realign the little calcium carbonate crystals in your ear that get loose. These are at the root of BPPV.

One of the most famous techniques is called the Epley Maneuver. It can be unpleasant, but effective. However, even if you don't do anything, the problem usually passes in a few weeks. During that time, you'll want to avoid rising from your bed or a crouch too quickly.

Stroke or Mini-Stroke

Dizziness may not be the first symptom of a stroke, but if you experience it as a sudden change accompanied with a weakness on one side of your body, a loss of movement, a severe headache, or loss of speech, call 911 immediately. This could be a stroke.

Medications

The package insert of nearly every prescription medication lists dizziness as a possible side effect. So if you have recently started a new medication—prescription or over the counter—it could be the reason you're feeling dizzy. It may mean that you have to switch medications, and sometimes an adjustment of dosage may bring you a whole lot of relief.

One medication in particular that's known to cause dizziness is blood pressure medication. Blood pressure medications need to be closely monitored, to ensure that your blood pressure has not risen too high, or fallen too low.

Anemia

Low levels of iron in the body can leave you feeling fatigued with low energy, and dizziness can be a possible symptom as well. Increase levels of iron in your diet by eating eggs as well as some great plant sources of iron such as dark leafy greens including kale, Swiss chard, spinach, cabbage, and broccoli. If your levels are really low, you may need to temporarily take an iron supplement. 

Meniere's Disease

People in their 40s and 50s are the ones most likely to develop this condition. This disease is a disturbance of the inner ear. Sufferers experience dizziness and vertigo, but they also usually notice a ringing in the ear called tinnitus, some hearing loss, or a feeling of pressure or pain in the ear. People with Meniere's disease often feel like their ear is full. There is no known cause, but experts speculate that it comes from an abnormal amount of fluid in the inner ear. A flare-up of the disease can last anywhere from twenty minutes to four hours at a time.

Meniere's disease can't be cured, but the symptoms can be managed. See your doctor or a specialist in the field to find treatment, and if you have Meniere's Disease, be sure to get enough sleep. Sleep is important for all of us, but especially for those who suffer from Meniere's Disease, because fatigue can trigger a Meniere's episode. Find out some tips for getting better sleep here.

Low Blood Suger/Hypoglycemia

If you have low blood sugar, it can make you sweaty, clammy, uncomfortable, and irritable. If you have a sharp blood pressure drop at the same time, it could lead to a blackout. If you are diabetic, this is a particular danger. In addition to experiencing dizziness from low blood sugar, diabetics can also find themselves dizzy from too little insulin. But even if you're not diabetic, if you have been overworking or overexerting yourself for several hours and haven't eaten or drunk anything, you could experience low blood sugar, including dizziness.

When this happens drink juice right away, as the quick sugar will help almost immediately. However, prevention is the best solution! Eat small meals throughout the day and follow the recommendations in Dr. Nancy's anti-inflammatory diet to keep it from happening in the first place. 

Low Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure drops, which can happen due to dehydration, heart problems, endocrine problems, or severe infection, you may experience dizziness. Depending on the reason for the low blood pressure, your doctor may offer different solutions, so speak, to your healthcare provider.

The Bottom Line

In general, dizziness is not an emergency, but it can be. If your dizziness is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

  • Blackouts
  • loss of memory
  • sharp chest pain
  • severe headache
  • impaired speech or vision
  • sudden loss of hearing

Stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and inflammation may be contributing factors behind many of these causes of dizziness. So watch your diet and be mindful of what you choose to eat. Take your supplements daily to manage inflammation and improve sleep, and follow Dr. Nancy's better sleep tips. All of these can really reduce the possibility of frequent vertigo and dizziness.

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