Researchers revealed that the most common type of fainting, called vasovagal syncope, can lead to drops in blood pressure and heart rate, and a brief loss of consciousness. This fainting can be caused by prolonged standing or standing up quickly.
“Recurrent syncope (fainting) has serious effects on quality of life. Patients are often injured when they fall, which reduces their mobility and ability to look after themselves. Depression is common in these patients,” Dr. Marta Bavolarova, lead researcher of the study, said in a statement.
For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from two women aged 56 and 62 years with a history of vasovagal syncope, NDTV reported. The head up tilt test was performed on each patient. For the test, patients lie on a table which is rapidly tilted to a 60 degree angle to mimic standing up. The table has built in monitors for blood pressure and heart rate (using ECG).
“Our test, which is like standing up quickly, previously led to falls in blood pressure and heart rate and subsequent syncope in these patients. But strong and forced inhalation by sniffing or gasping seemed to prevent these drops and they did not faint,” Bavolarova said. “We believe that sniffing and gasping have a strong sympathetic effect that inhibits the abnormal parasympathetic activity in these patients. This stops fainting at the highest level.”
She goes on to say that “patients with recurrent fainting are advised to avoid standing up quickly and standing for long periods of time. Those who have prodromal symptoms like weakness, sweating or visual disturbances are advised to do counterpressure maneuvers like leg crossing and hand grips to increase their heart rate and blood pressure. We now also tell patients that they can sniff or gasp to prevent themselves from fainting. This was a small preliminary study and we will confirm our findings in a larger number of patients.”