Fainting spells in elderly: try B-12

If you feel faint when you stand up from a chair or bed, you may be low in vitamin B-12, according to new research. “Orthostatic hypotension” (OH) is a loss of blood pressure when standing up from a sitting or laying down position. Experienced by many older people, these fainting spells can result in serious falls and injuries. The “head up tilt” test, where the patient lies on a table and is tilted at various angles to simulate standing, is the standard test for OH. Several case studies have reported a link between OH and vitamin B-12 deficiency.

At the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Ireland, researchers tested OH in older patients with vitamin B-12 deficiency. Using the “head up tilt” test, the researchers measured the blood pressure, heart rate and vascular resistance changes before and after B-12 supplementation. They compared these measurements to a control group of eight elderly adults with normal B-12 levels.

After six months of supplementation, tests showed significant improvement in blood pressure changes and other measurements in those taking B-12, leading researchers to recommend supplementation for older adults with low B-12 to cut the risk of fainting spells.

Vitamin B-12 helps the body maintain nerve function and produce red blood cells. Older adults should consider supplementation, as B-12 absorption decreases with age. Food sources of B-12 include, beef, salmon, dairy and eggs.

Source: Clin Auton Res. 2004 Apr;14(2):67-71