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Dizziness has many origins, which often makes it difficult to diagnose. There may be many causes of dizziness, the heart being one of them. It is always a good idea to visit your primary care doctor or cardiologist if you are concerned that the dizziness you are experiencing is related to your heart. Although there are many conditions that may be cardiac related, the following may sound familiar:


(Syncope) is a sudden drop of blood pressure resulting in loss of consciousness. About 3% of the population has syncope at some point in life (Savage, 1985). Syncope also accounts for 3% of all emergency room visits and 6% of all hospital visits. Between 71 and 125 children and adolescents/100,000 population experience syncope each year. The incidence peaks in 15- 19 year olds (Driscoll, 1997).


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects one in three adults in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The American Heart Association considers a resting systolic reading of 140mm Hg or higher and diastolic reading of 90 mm Hg or higher, high blood pressure.

Continuous high blood pressure damages the walls of the blood vessels. This damage causes the blood vessels to become thick, hard and stiff, a condition known as arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis in the blood
vessels leading to the brain restricts the fl ow of blood to the brain, resulting in dizziness. It is important that you seek help from your doctor if you have high blood pressure in order to prevent other more serious conditions.


Orthostasis means upright posture, and hypotension means low blood pressure. Thus, orthostatic hypotension is low blood pressure that occurs upon standing. Common symptoms of orthostatic hypotension include dizziness, faintness or lightheadedness. Spinning vertigo is only rarely reported with orthostatic hypotension.

The heart is a central pump that pumps blood to the entire body. When the volume of blood is too low due to conditions such as anemia or dehydration your pressure drops when you stand and the result is a feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness. Certain medications can also lower blood pressure, thus it is again important to consult with your physician.

There are other times when your dizziness is not related to your heart. The average dizzy person visits 4 different doctors before they find the root of their problem or are told they cannot be helped. That doesn’t mean you should give up.

The following is a partial list of other disorders that may be the cause of dizziness.


This is a large category encompassing a wide variety of disorders including, but not limited to:

  • Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)- Disorder arising in the middle ear. Symptoms are repeated episodes of positional vertigo,that is, spinning sensation caused by changes in the position of the head.
  • Labyrinthitis or Vestibular Neuritis (infections that inflame the inner ear and nerves to the inner ear).
  • Meniere’s Disease-Usually presents with fluctuating hearing loss on one side (however, can be on both with severe cases), tinnitus (low frequency ringing in the ear) and episodes of vertigo.
  • Secondary Endolympahic HydropsSymptoms include pressure or fullness in the ears, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, dizziness, and imbalance.
  • Migraine Associated Vertigo
  • Mal de Debarquement -Feeling like you are still on a cruise ship or airplane when you are not.
  • Canal Dehiscence- People experience vertigo and motion of objects that are known to be stationary evoked by loud noises and/or maneuvers that change middle ear pressure.


This is a common problem in people traveling by car, train, airplanes, and especially boats. Motion sickness can start suddenly, with a queasy feeling. It can lead to dizziness, nausea and vomiting.



For example, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, etc.


For example, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.


Treating dizziness has become a specialty in the field of Physical Therapy. Contact your local American Physical Therapy Association for centers near you. Element Physical Therapy in Missoula, MT specializes in orthopedics, dizziness and balance disorders. We have specialized equipment to specifically treat these disorders using VNG goggles, Smart Equi-test system by NeuroCom® for balance assessment and training, optokinetics and specifically tailored exercises to improve your symptoms. Now that the New Year is here, it is time to take care of YOU! Feel Good, Function Well.


Amy Downing, PT is the owner of Element
Physical Therapy