Are Dementia and Dizziness Related?

Joe, who is 56, has experienced dizziness for a few months now, typically when he gets out of bed in the morning. His dizziness has gotten worse lately. He fell a few times and nearly got into a car accident last week. Also, sometimes he hears ringing in his ears and it has become unbearable. He has an appointment to get it checked out. He hopes his symptoms can be alleviated, but fears his dizziness could be an indication of a bigger health issue.
What Causes Dizziness?
Dizziness is a word that describes the sensation of spinning while being off-balance and the feeling of being light-headed and losing your balance. Vertigo refers to the actual feeling that your surroundings are spinning or moving when they aren’t. Vertigo differs from dizziness because it’s caused by an issue in your central nervous system or a problem with your inner ear.
Many different conditions can make you feel both dizzy and tired. Sometimes these symptoms are temporary, or they might come and go. Other times, they could be an indication of other problems.
Feeling dizzy or light headed when getting up from a sitting or lying down position is typically due to a sudden fall in blood pressure called orthostatic hypotension. This mainly occurs when the blood pools in the lower extremities and the brain is temporarily deprived of oxygenated blood causing the light headedness. Common symptoms of orthostatic hypotension are feeling weak, confused, faint, and perhaps mildly nauseous. Dizziness and vertigo have both been found to be associated with dementia, as I will describe later in this article.
Dizziness in Middle-Aged People Can Be a Sign of Dementia in the Future
A study has found that people who feel dizzy when they stand up from lying down or sitting positions, are more at risk of developing dementia or stroke in the future. The study, published in the journal, Neurology, was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the NIH, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
For this study, researchers recruited 11,709 Americans. The study followed participants for an average of 25 years and the average age of the participants was around 54 years. None of these participants had an earlier history of a heart disease or stroke at the initiation of the study.
Orthostatic hypotension has been associated with heart disease in the past. This study explored the connection such type of hypotension has with brain disorders, such as stroke and dementia.
Results from the study showed that:
• Of the 552 participants who had orthostatic hypotension at the start of the study, 12.5 % developed dementia;
• Of the 10,527 participants who did not have orthostatic hypotension at the start of the study, only 9% had dementia during the follow up.
Co-author Rebecca Gottesman, from Johns Hopkins University, explained that midlife orthostatic hypotension was never studied like this before. Older people with orthostatic hypotension were studied in connection with stroke, dementia, and heart disease.
How are Dementia and Vertigo Linked?
Your cerebellum is the part of your brain that controls your body movements. When there is a problem with this part of your brain, it can cause balance issues, such as vertigo. Because of this, episodes of vertigo are sometimes the first sign that you may be getting dementia. This is especially true when talking about vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease because they affect the balance center of your brain.
With vascular dementia, vertigo is one of the first symptoms you’ll experience before any of the other signs begin to show. Alzheimer’s disease is similar because vertigo may be one of the earlier signs you may experience. There’s a specific form of this disease called posterior cortical atrophy, affecting your cerebellum, leading to vertigo and balance problems.
Vertigo, other forms of dizziness, and dementia can be related. However, just because you’ve been diagnosed with one doesn’t mean you’ll experience the other. If you aren’t sure of your symptoms, be sure to make an appointment with your physician.
What Other Conditions Can Make You Feel Dizzy?
Many different conditions can make you feel dizzy and out of sorts. These are some examples:
1. Low blood sugar: When your blood sugar level drops, you can become dizzy, shaky, and tired. Low blood sugar is often a side effect of insulin and other drugs used to treat diabetes. These drugs lower blood sugar, but if the dose isn’t right your blood sugar can drop too much.
A fast-acting source of carbohydrates can relieve low blood sugar. Drink a glass of fruit juice or suck on a hard candy. Follow that up with a more nourishing meal to raise your blood sugar levels. If you often get hypoglycemia, you might need to adjust your diabetes medicine. Or you could eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This will help keep your blood sugar level steady.
2. Low blood pressure: When your blood pressure drops you can have symptoms such as dizziness or lightheadedness, and fatigue, among other things. Heart problems, medications, serious injury, dehydration and vitamin deficiencies can be a cause of low blood pressure. Treating these issues can bring your blood pressure back up to normal.
3. Anemia: Red blood cells carry oxygen to all your organs and tissues. When you have anemia, your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, or these cells don’t work well enough. A lack of oxygen can make you feel dizzy or tired. Bleeding, nutrient deficiencies, and bone marrow failure are all possible causes of anemia.
4. Migraines: Migraines are intense, throbbing headaches that last from a few hours to a few days. People who get migraines can experience dizziness and vertigo, even when they don’t have a headache. The vertigo can last for a few minutes to a few hours. Avoiding migraine triggers such as alcohol, caffeine, and dairy, and taking prescribed medications are ways to prevent these headaches.
5. Medications: Certain medicines can cause dizziness and fatigue as side effects. These include antidepressants, antiseizure drugs, blood pressure lowering drugs, muscle relaxants, and sleeping pills. If you’re on one of these medicines and it’s making you dizzy or tired, ask your doctor if you can lower the dose or switch to another drug.
Are You Experiencing Memory Problems?
Many people worry that memory problems are related to early Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. However, some problems are normal and just related to aging, and do not signify dementia. Normal age-related changes often cause minor difficulties with immediate memory. Memory changes due to normal aging are usually mild and do not worsen greatly over time, nor should they interfere with a person’s day-to-day functioning.
Be sure to see your doctor if you are experiencing dizziness, vertigo, memory loss, or any of the other issues described above.
People with Dementia and Their Families Should Plan for the Future As Soon As Possible
People with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At the Farr Law Firm, we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those with dementia and their loved ones. We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with dementia, please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for an initial consultation:
Elder Law Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Law Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Law Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Law Attorney DC: 202-587-2797
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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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