Q: My sister fainted at a recent family gathering. She seems fine, but I'm encouraging her to see a physician. Am I overreacting?
A: There are many reasons people experience syncope -- the medical term for fainting or passing out. They include standing for a long time, dehydration, overheating and exhaustion. Some medications used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions can also cause fainting. Whatever the cause, fainting is typically the result of a sudden drop in blood pressure that decreases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. And while causes are often not life-threatening, temporary loss of consciousness can indicate a more serious problem such as an abnormal heartbeat or certain blood vessel diseases. This is especially true for older adults. I recommend anyone who experiences an unexplained fainting spell visit his or her physician. When you visit your physician, be prepared to tell him or her if you:
• Fainted while exercising
• Have a fast or irregular heartbeat
• Have a family history of frequent fainting or sudden cardiac death
- Dr. Gregg Shander, The Chattanooga Heart Institute at Memorial; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society
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