The pros call it orthostatic hypotension, but you might know it better as a head rush: that lightheaded feeling you get when you stand up too fast. Here, five reasons why you're seeing stars and what to do about them.
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"Typical causes of a head rush feeling include anything that can dramatically change your blood volume and blood pressure," says Sherry Ross, M.D., ob-gyn and women's health expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
When you sit or lie for long periods, the effects of gravity cause blood to pool in your legs. Because there's less blood circulating back to your heart to pump, your blood pressure decreases—and once you're on your feet again, your heart picks up the pace to stabilize your BP. "Our body has a way of regulating the process, so it usually goes unnoticed," explains Ross, but there are certain things that can interrupt it, and in turn, cause head rush.
Dehydration, for example, can reduce the volume of blood circulating through your vessels and cause a blood pressure dip. The result? An unpleasant fuzzy feeling upon standing. Make it a point to stay on top of your H2O intake—especially after a night of bevvies or an über-sweaty workout, when fluid loss is greatest. And make sure you're aware of these sneaky signs of dehydration.
You Take Steamy Showers
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If piping-hot showers or baths are your thing, don't be surprised if a head rush isn't far behind, says Texas-based ob-gyn Shawn Tassone, M.D., Ph.D. Spending time in the heat can dilate (widen) blood vessels, causing a drop in blood pressure. And if you move suddenly (say, to step out of the tub), your body works overtime to restore your BP to normal levels—hence the blood surge to your brain. To prevent this from happening, either shorten the amount of time you spend in hot AF temps or consider adjusting your faucets.
You Stand for Too Long
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Sometimes your blood pressure can drop because of faulty brain signals, known as neurally mediated hypotension (NMH), according to the Mayo Clinic. When you stand for an extended period of time, it causes a slow-and-steady dip in blood pressure as blood pools in your legs. Usually, your bod does its thing to normalize your blood pressure—only with NMH, your heart sends a memo to your brain that your BP is too high rather than too low, lowering your blood pressure even further. Avoid passing out by moving your legs while standing, or crossing your thighs and squeezing, both of which encourage blood flow to, well, get flowing.
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When you make a sudden move (say, bending over to pick something up) and your blood pressure drops, your heart speeds up to turbo-pump blood to the brain. However, this blood makes a pit stop at the uterus and your growing fetus, causing your brain to experience a few seconds with decreased oxygen, explains Tassone. This is normal, and your blood pressure should resolve itself after you've given birth, according to the Mayo Clinic. In the meantime, you may be able to reduce the dizzy spells by sitting or standing up slowly, and squatting with your knees to avoid bending at the waist.
Your Blood Sugar Is Low
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Glucose (sugar) is used by your cells for energy, so running low on the stuff can impair how your body functions—especially your brain. When you're hella busy and skip meals, the dip in blood sugar can domino into low blood pressure, causing lightheadedness. "A head rush can be a signal that it's time to stop and take stock of our basic needs," says Diana Bitner, M.D., director of the Women's Health Network at Spectrum Health in Michigan. You know, like eating. Keep your blood sugar stable by snacking on complex carbs every few hours (whole grains, green veggies), says Bitner. Complex carbs are slowly broken down into sugar by the digestive system. (Related: 10 Ancient Grains to Switch Up Your Healthy Carbs)