Anyone can feel dizzy or lightheaded if they stand up too quickly, but for some folks, the sudden wooziness could be related to low blood pressure.
There are several reasons you might have a dizzy spell. If the world is spinning like you just got off a tilt-a-whirl, you might instead be experiencing vertigo, a different sensation caused by inner ear issues that feels more like spinning and imbalance.
The head rush and faintness that happen after you stand though? That’s dizziness, and there are ways prevent it so you aren’t left feeling weak or wobbly.
Why do you feel dizzy when you stand up?
A lot of people experience dizziness when they stand up after sitting or lying down for long periods.
When you sit or lie down, gravity causes your blood to pool in the lower half of your body. Normally, your blood vessels should constrict when you stand up, which pushes your blood up to your brain. If you stand too quickly, however, your vessels might not be able to redistribute your blood right away. This causes a dip in your blood pressure. As a result, some folks feel lightheaded after standing — sometimes up to two to five minutes.
Other reasons you might feel dizzy
For some people, low blood pressure (hypotension) can be related to their known chronic diseases, like neurological conditions, heart problems or diabetes. In fact, any medical condition that affects how the blood is pumped by the heart and circulates through the body can cause someone to be prone to dizziness.
And, although dizziness is not commonly associated with high blood pressure, certain high blood pressure (hypertension) medications like diuretics could lead to dizziness as well.
“For people with known high blood pressure experiencing dizziness, I first consider if their blood pressure medications are dropping blood pressure too low. Certain medications are more likely to cause dizziness, especially those that dilate your blood vessels and diuretics. But really anytime your blood pressure is low regardless of the cause you can feel dizzy,” says Dr. Laura Mayeda, a nephrologist at the Hypertension Clinic at Harborview Medical Center.
Even if your blood pressure is in a healthy range, you can feel dizzy when you stand because of a normal delay of the distribution of blood in your body. You’re more likely to experience this if you are dehydrated, if you haven’t eaten enough or if you just had a big meal and your body is digesting.
Is dizziness a symptom of high or low blood pressure?
Dizziness is a symptom of low blood pressure. However, high blood pressure can also indirectly be related to dizziness in some people.
Low blood pressure causes dizziness because it makes it harder to get adequate blood flow to your brain.
While dizziness is not a symptom of high blood pressure, some people experience dizziness as a side effect of their high blood pressure medication. In some instances, the medication can cause a drop in the person’s blood pressure and this in turn leads to dizziness.
“If someone has really high blood pressure for a long time and then begin medicines that lower their blood pressure, even if their blood pressure is in a normal range, that change can cause them to feel dizzy. Over time, the person will adjust to blood pressures in the normal range,” Mayeda says.
Basically, fluctuations and drops in blood pressure can make you feel dizzy, whether it’s from low blood pressure, medication that lowers your blood pressure or general fluctuations.
What can you do to stop feeling dizzy?
You aren’t stuck with the spins.
Prep yourself to stand and do so slowly
The no. 1 way to avoid orthostatic hypotension? Avoid rising quickly after long periods of sitting or lying down, Mayeda says.
Before you stand, give your blood flow a boost by flexing your feet multiple times. A couple repetitions of pulling your toes toward you and then letting your feet relax should do the trick. By contracting your muscles, you are getting your blood flowing and moving it higher in your body before you stand, which helps blood get to your brain faster once you’re vertical.
Wear compression socks
If you work a job (or generally live a lifestyle) where you often need to squat down and stand back up again, or work with your arms above your head, compression socks can help keep your blood flowing.
The socks put gentle pressure on your legs that helps prevent your blood from pooling in your lower body.
Stay hydrated and eat like Goldilocks
Dehydration reduces your blood volume and your blood pressure. Drinking water, especially if you are exercising, and avoiding hot baths, hot tubs and saunas can prevent this drop in blood pressure and any resulting dizziness.
“For healthy folks who don’t have high blood pressure, heart disease or other medical conditions, increasing salt and fluid intake could be an initial first step,” Mayeda says.
As for meals, you want to aim for the Goldilocks approach: not too little, not too much, but just right. One way to do this is to stick with smaller, more frequent meals, as not enough food can cause lightheadedness and eating large meals leads to more blood in your gut as you digest your food, which increases your chances of orthostatic hypotension.
Check your blood pressure and talk to your doctor about your medications
If you have high blood pressure and are dealing with dizziness, the first step is to check your blood pressure.
“If your blood pressure is actually low and you are on blood pressure medications, the question is can one of the medicines be reduced or stopped,” Mayeda says.
To be clear: Do not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor. But your doctor should know if your blood pressure is low and, in some cases, it may be necessary to reduce your high blood pressure medication to ease lightheadedness and dizziness.
Whether it’s compression socks, hydration or medication, a mix of lifestyle changes can help you find your balance.