This article was written by Lauren Kent, a writer and consultant for Nutri-Health Supplements with over 15 years of experience. She is passionate about helping people enjoy more active, vibrant lives through nutrition and supplementation.
What Causes Fainting?
Fainting can be downright scary. I remember the one and only time I fainted. I was in my early 20s and had been taking a nap. Someone knocked on my door and I got up to answer it. I had a short conversation with the person, and then closed the door. Seconds later, I went down, hitting my head on a piece of furniture as I fell. Luckily, my boyfriend at the time was there and rushed to my aid. I came to pretty quickly, but was completely shaken up. I also had a small bump on my head.
When I went to the doctor to get checked out, I bet you can guess the first question she asked me. “Are you pregnant?” I wasn’t. While pregnancy is one cause of fainting, there are many others. Here are the main reasons why we faint, and ways you can lower your risk of experiencing a fainting spell.
The medical term for fainting is syncope (pronounced sin-ko-pee). Syncope is caused by a drop in blood flow and oxygen to the brain. The most common causes of fainting are usually not signs of a more serious illness. In these cases, you faint because of:
Vasovagal attack. With a vasovagal attack, the heart rate slows and the blood vessels widen, or dilate. As a result, blood pools in the lower body and less blood flows to the brain. This condition can be triggered by many things, including stress, pain, coughing, and extended periods of standing. If you feel faint at the sight of blood, that’s a vasovagal attack.
Most people know their own triggers, so fainting as a result of a vasovagal attack can be somewhat easy to predict. If you start to feel faint, or have warning signs of a vasovagal attack such as feeling dizzy, weak, warm, or sick to your stomach, sit with your head between your knees or lie down if you feel faint. If you’re going to be standing for a long period of time, such as a wedding ceremony, be sure not to lock your knees, as that can impact blood flow to your brain.
Orthostatic hypotension. Also called postural hypotension, this condition is a form of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up from sitting or lying down too quickly. This was the cause of my fainting spell, as I jumped up from the bed to answer the door. Orthostatic hypotension can happen if you stand up too fast, don’t keep yourself hydrated, stay in hot tubs too long, or take certain medicines, such as ones for high blood pressure.
To reduce your risk of orthostatic hypotension, drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself from getting dehydrated. If you’re sitting or lying down, get up slowly. And, if you’re taking a medication for high blood pressure and are experiencing orthostatic hypotension, talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about alternatives.
Beyond a vasovagal attack and orthostatic hypotension, fainting can be caused by more serious conditions, including:
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Heart or blood vessel problems such as an abnormal heartbeat or a heart valve problem
Nervous system problems
Sometimes, the cause of fainting is unknown.
Consciousness after fainting is usually regained quickly, within a couple of minutes. That’s because when you’re lying flat on the floor, your heart is level with your brain and this helps restore blood flow to the brain. While most fainting spells are not serious, you should see your healthcare provider after any fainting episode to rule out the more serious causes.
About the Author
Lauren Kent is a writer, guest blogger, and consultant for Nutri Health Supplements. Having spent more than 15 years in the nutritional supplement industry, Lauren is passionate about helping people enjoy more active, vibrant lives through nutrition and supplementation. “When it comes to health, there’s no magic bullet. There’s no one pill that will cure all that ails us. What I hope others learn through my writing is that our bodies are a reflection of the nutrition we give it. Feed it right, and it will reward us.”
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