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Fainting can be a sign of heart disease. Know symptoms, prevention tips and early management

Fainting, especially if it is recurring, can be a symptom and a risk factor for serious cardiovascular disease in some cases. In fact, untreated symptoms can trigger severe heart problems like arrhythmia, heart failure, cardiac arrest or even death.

Health Desk Edited by: Health Desk New Delhi Published on: May 16, 2022 18:31 IST
Representative image
Image Source : FREEPIK

Representative image

Have you ever felt a sudden or temporary loss of consciousness? You are probably fainting. Fainting is a condition where one loses consciousness due to improper blood flow to the brain. Individuals commonly experience fainting due to certain non-threatening causes like stress, fatigue, dehydration and/or low blood pressure or hypotension. However, fainting, especially if it is recurring, can be a symptom and a risk factor for serious cardiovascular disease in some cases. In fact, untreated symptoms can trigger severe heart problems like arrhythmia, heart failure, cardiac arrest or even death. Largely, heart disease risks increase for older age groups. It has been seen that lifestyle factors like smoking, obesity, and stress have significantly increased hypertension and heart conditions amongst children and young adults including those in their 20s and 30s. Therefore, one must seek timely medical intervention upon early detection of warning signs to prevent and manage heart-related fainting risks.

Fainting or syncope can be caused due to certain conditions:

1. Dehydration: Dehydration due to excessive heat and sweating-related fluid loss, can cause nausea, dizziness and light-headedness fainting symptoms. 

2. Overstimulated nervous system: Identifiable causes like prolonged standing, abruptly standing after lying down, or psychological distress may overstimulate the nervous system or vagus nerve that links the brain to the stomach. Therefore, one may experience initial light-headedness sensations and loss of consciousness at times. 

3. Pre-existing medical conditions: Fainting is also a symptom of other pre-existing medical conditions such as hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar among diabetics or hypertension. Certain medications such as psychiatric, diuretics, antihistamines, or heart disease medications can also trigger fainting. 

4. Cardiac Syncope: Serious causes include heart-related diseases which can increase cardiac-related death risks. Commonly, cardiovascular causes include irregular heartbeat or palpitations, such as too low heartbeat in bradycardia or too fast heartbeat or tachycardia. Other relatively rare causes include damaged heart muscles due to prior heart attacks, pulmonary embolism, enlarged or weakened heart or a tear in the aorta. Similarly, valve disorders particularly aortic stenosis due to age can hinder oxygenated blood flow to the brain resulting in syncope. 

Here are some Prevention Tips and Early Management 

Initial fainting symptoms include light-headedness, sweating, nausea, and blurred vision before a blackout or loss of consciousness occurs. However, untreated symptoms can trigger fatal injuries or even sudden cardiac arrests in severe cases. It has become important to take preventive and management measures include:

1. Posture:  Commonly, lying down or sitting can deescalate dizziness, sweaty palms and nausea symptoms. 

2. Lifestyle: One can prevent heart-related syncope through regular 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercises and eating a diet with nuts, leafy green vegetables, low salt that improve heart and overall health. Particularly, as lifestyle-related disorders and obesity amongst the younger population has widened cardiovascular risks across age groups. 

3. Periodic check-ups: Timely intervention and regular check-ups are necessary preventive and management measures for the often trivialized condition. Particularly, higher risks groups include individuals above 60, those with a medical and family history of hypertension, heart ailments like arrhythmia, and severe aortic stenos. Though, children and young adults with symptoms must also undertake check-ups for early prevention. Importantly, timely diagnoses helps the doctor ascertain fainting causes either benign or a warning sign of serious cardiac diseases. The doctor may conduct a detailed physical and history evaluation and monitor blood pressure and heart rate and advise relevant investigation.

4. Manage pre-existing conditions: Those with pre-existing heart, diabetes or metabolic diseases must manage their condition through relevant doctor advice and medications.

Overall, common fainting can signal and escalate as serious medical conditions, particularly relating to the heart. Therefore, simple preventive measures like lifestyle management, scheduling routine check-ups, and doctor consultations can help timely management and treatment of the condition. 

(The author is Dr. Amit Gupta, Senior Consultant -Cardiology, Manipal Hospital, Gurugram)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV)