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Are You Feeling Dizzy or Lightheaded? Simple Cure or Sign of Danger?

Common reasons why someone may feel dizzy

Are You Feeling Dizzy?

During work outs or in your daily life are you feeling dizzy? Feeling dizzy can be a sign or symptom of a host of problems that can be simple to complex. Do you know why you are dizzy and if you should seek a medical intervention?

The first thing your doctor will want to know is “Are you feeling lightheaded or dizzy?”.  Often it is hard to tell the difference, your answer will have a big impact on how the doctor moves forward with diagnosis and treatment. It is important to note that lightheadedness is not the same as dizziness, also known as vertigo, which refers to feeling like your surroundings are spinning.

What are some of the common reasons that you are feeling dizzy?

There are several reasons for dizziness or lightheadedness which include dehydration, side effects of medications, sudden blood pressure changes, blood sugar changes and in extreme cases dizziness can be a precursor to a serious cardiovascular occurrence.

It’s common for many people who go from a low position with their head down to a high position quickly to get light headed. Feeling dizzy or lightheaded is a common complaint as we age. Frequently it doesn’t signify something that is overly concerning; it could be an early warning sign, and you do need to keep track of when it happens and along with any other symptoms.

These are the common causes for feeling dizzy along with ways to combat the problem.

1) Overheating and dehydration

Many people enjoy training outside! Hiking, running, power walking, boot camps, roller blading, biking, soccer and the list goes on! When you are active in hot weather, and you don’t drink enough fluids, you will feel dizzy and sometimes nauseous from overheating (hyperthermia) and from dehydration.

The problem comes when you are active during peak heat, and you aren’t maintaining the optimal amounts of water. Drinking water just during activity doesn’t combat the problem either! You need to maintain your water intake throughout your day all the time! The reason for this is simple, without enough water, your blood volume goes down, which lowers blood pressure and keeps the brain from getting enough blood, thus causing dizziness. Most people think that drinking 8 ~ 8oz glasses of water is adequate. However, when you are working out in the heat, this won’t be sufficient.  Check out this water calculator to see if you are drinking enough based on gender, age, height, weight, activity and weather!

It is important to seek help if you experience headaches, nausea and the dizziness doesn’t abate with ingestion of water or better yet coconut water. You may need an intravenous infusion of fluid. A doctor can check to see if you need electrolytes like potassium or salt.

2) Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

This condition occurs mainly in people who have diabetes and insulin dependent. Sweating and anxiety may accompany dizziness (lightheadedness) with hypoglycemia.

When your blood sugar is low, your body will conserve what you have and use as little energy as possible, without sufficient energy your brain, will feel lightheaded or confused. Most of the time, it may only take a drink of orange or apple juice to relieve the symptoms. It is important to note if you are diabetic that it’s best to check your blood sugar levels, especially if you need more glucose such as dextrose tablets or glucose gel. You don’t want to end up over-correcting. Always have your blood glucose monitor handy if you aren’t on a pump. I always recommend that my clients check blood glucose before they work out, immediately after they work out and two hours post workout for the first four to six weeks when starting any new program that is more intense than what they are currently doing. Monitoring for this period will allow you to titrate up and down your insulin as per physician instructions and will give you an idea of what form of glucose you will need on hand.

3) Inner ear problems (Vertigo)

Balance depends on a combination of input from a variety of your sensory system including eyes, sensory nerves, and inner ear. Vertigo leaves you with a sense that the environment around you is spinning or moving. There are several reasons that people can develop vertigo including infections, Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (caused by rapid head movement), excessive buildup of fluid in the ear (Meniere’s disease), and migraines, to name but a few.

With inner ear afflictions, your brain is receiving a communication from the inner ear that isn’t consistent with your eyes and sensory nerves. Vertigo is a result as your brain tries to sort out the confusion. You will need to see your physician if you have vertigo so that they can either prescribe the appropriate medication or send you for therapy.

According to the Mayo Clinic (2) treatments could include;

Head position maneuvers. A technique called canalith repositioning (or Epley maneuver) usually helps resolve benign paroxysmal positional vertigo more quickly than simply waiting for your dizziness to go away. It can be done by your doctor, an audiologist or a physical therapist and involves maneuvering the position of your head. It’s usually effective after one or two treatments. Before undergoing this procedure, tell your care provider if you have a neck or back condition, a detached retina or blood vessel problems.

Balance therapy. You may learn specific exercises to help make your balance system less sensitive to motion. This physical therapy technique is called vestibular rehabilitation. It is used for people with dizziness from inner ear conditions such as vestibular neuritis.

4) Abrupt drops in blood pressure

The autonomic nervous system aids the body in the regulation of shifts in blood pressure when we stand up. As we age, the autonomic nervous system starts to become impaired, which can cause a temporary drop in blood pressure when we stand. This condition is known as orthostatic hypotension, which results in us feeling dizzy. Orthostatic hypotension can be a long-term problem, but it is treatable with medications such as midodrine and fludrocortisone, so this requires a trip to your family doctor.

Your Naturopath can work with you on diet and nutrition to help with hypotension as well. Healthy eating can go a long way in preventing low blood pressure. A diet rich in grains, vegetables, fruits and lean chicken and fish is great when dealing with and avoiding this problem. Limit alcohol consumption and drink lots of water. Salt can also help to moderate blood pressure. It is important to have enough salt, but not too much. Too much salt leads to high blood pressure, not enough salt leads to low blood pressure. It is crucial to get just the right amount so discuss this with your Naturopath before attempting to use this as a remedy.

5) Side Effects from Medications

Medications all come with a laundry list of side effects! Many of them come with the undesired feeling of fatigue, drowsiness and can also leave you feeling dizzy. Some of the medications that are notorious for this side effect include but aren’t limited too, anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, sedatives and tranquillizers. One of the major offenders is medications that lower blood pressure these drugs may cause faintness if they lower your blood pressure too much. Diuretics, in particular, are known for causing dizziness.

It is imperative to note that if you suspect that your medication is causing you problems with lightheadedness that you DO NOT try to adjust your dose on your own. Go and see your doctor have them change your medicine or the dose. Trying to change your dose can lead to serious health concerns; including death! In the event, your doctor is not available, talk to your pharmacist if the symptoms are mild, or go to the nearest emergency ward if they are severe.

6) Heart attack and stroke

At the most severe end of the spectrum, feeling light headed can be a signal that you are experiencing or are going to have a heart attack or stroke!

In this case, symptoms of a heart attack to be aware of include, chest pain and/or left arm pain, shortness of breath, nausea, back pain or jaw pain.

Stroke symptoms include a sudden intense headache, numbness, visual disturbances, difficulty walking, slurred speech, sagging on half of the face or difficulty lifting your hands over your head. Use the Heart and Stroke Foundation acronym called FAST for stroke; organizers say this could help save someone’s life:

Face: Is it drooping?

Arms: Can you raise both over your head?

Speech: Is it slurred or jumbled?

Time: Call 911 right away

Should you suspect a stroke or heart attack every second counts, so get to an emergency room for treatment immediately.

Before You Head to the Gym

When you are training if you are new to exercise, ensure you are eating a meal about an hour and a half to two hours before you work out. Drink eight to twelve ounces of water thirty minutes before your workout. When you are confident that you have fueled and hydrated yourself adequately but are still experiencing feeling dizzy, then it is recommended that you go to see your family doctor.

When you are training if you start to feel lightheaded make sure you keep moving slowly; go for a walk around the gym, change your breathing pattern (3 seconds in and 4 seconds out), get some water and sip on it. Should you still feel, dizzy then have some orange or apple juice on hand to drink and find a quiet place to sit and take your blood pressure. It is essential to note that if you break out into a cold sweat, start experiencing pain in your chest and the left arm or have nausea; you must get immediate medical attention this may be a sign of a stroke or heart attack!

Hire a Personal Trainer with Clinical Experience

When you have a medical diagnosis for your condition it is very important to work with a personal trainer. There are many important changes in training methods if you have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases or if you have suffered a stroke. Advanced Personal Trainers have foundation knowledge in exercise rehabilitation, training special population groups, and advanced knowledge in fitness testing and assessments. Your Advanced Personal Trainers will develop a safe effective program for you that will minimize any chance of you having serious complications from your health concerns!

Good Luck and Happy Training!

Cathie Glennon – BCRPA/SFL