The investigators wanted to know if people in the group that had fainted were more likely to die prematurely, have recurrent fainting episodes, develop cardiovascular problems or have a heart device -- such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.
Fainting is related to a sudden drop in blood pressure that leads to decreased blood flow in the brain. Vasovagal syncope -- the most common type -- usually has an obvious trigger such as emotional stress, pain, the sight of blood or prolonged standing, according to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The study suggests that fainting in seemingly healthy people may be a first symptom of a more severe underlying cardiovascular disease, the researchers found.
However, Ruwald noted that in some people, fainting may not signal a significant health issue. "Women in particular can experience [fainting] in the younger age groups due to vasovagal or reflex syncope and it is a quite frequent event," he explained.
But other times, vasovagal reactions aren't the cause of fainting. Many women in their 20s have low blood pressure and fainting is very common among them, Ruwald noted.
Nonetheless, Ruwald said that the data suggest that a 26-year-old healthy female who faints has more than twice the risk of death within a year and beyond than does a woman of the same age who has not fainted.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, explained that while fainting is common, it's challenging to identify who is in danger and who is not. "Some people do well, some people don't do well, and some people die," she said. "This study suggests that although fainting could mean nothing if you're 44 or older, it could be a sign of cardiovascula
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