Turns out dementia can be spotted up to 20 years before the effects even begin.
A new study has found a shocking link between dizzy spells in middle age, and the diagnosis of memory loss condition in later life.
Scientists believe that the sudden drops in blood pressure – signalled by dizziness in standing up and known as orthostatic hypotension – could cause long-lasting damage to the brain, which in turn could lead to a 40 per cent increased likelihood of the development of dementia.
“Even though these episodes are fleeting, they may have impacts that are long lasting,” says study lead Dr Andreea Rawlings from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“We found that those people who suffered from orthostatic hypotension in middle age were 40 per cent more likely to develop dementia than those who did not.
“It’s a significant finding and we need to better understand just what is happening.”
To achieve their findings, researchers studied the data of over 11,500 people aged 45 to 64. Participants’ blood pressure was tested in the moments just after standing, after a lie-down period of 20 minutes.
The researchers defined orthostatic hypotension as a rapid drop of 20 or more points in systolic blood pressure, or at least 10 in diastolic blood pressure.
Around six per cent of the participants, or 703 individuals, were then defined to possess the condition.
It was over the following two decades that scientists were able to conclude the 40 per cent increase from the figures recorded.
“I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming,” said singer David Cassidy of his recent dementia diagnosis.
“While many studies have focused on the risks of high blood pressure, these findings suggest that transient low blood pressure could also have a long term impact on the brain,” says Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research UK.
“This research adds to a growing and complex picture of how blood pressure changes throughout life can impact the brain.”
Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “Many people experience this form of low blood pressure which can reduce the blood flow to your brain for a short period and result in a dizzy or lightheaded feeling.
“It is not necessarily a cause for concern but people who frequently experience these symptoms should seek advice from their GP. More research is needed to investigate whether treating this kind of low blood pressure would reduce dementia risk.”
Experts agree that the best thing to do, along with seeking consultation regularly for any such dizziness, is to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise and good habits.