If you've ever fainted, you could have heart trouble, new research suggests.
Danish researchers tracked one-time fainters over several years and found that fainters were 74 percent more likely to eventually be admitted to the hospital for heart attack or stroke and five times more likely to need a pacemaker of implantable cardioverter-defibrillator at some point in their lifetime.
Researchers said that the findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggest that even low-risk people who faint need to be carefully checked by their doctors.
"Patients, relatives and clinicians should be aware that syncope [fainting] in seemingly healthy people is associated with higher risks of death and that syncope may be a first symptom of cardiovascular disease," said lead author Dr. Martin Ruwald of the study and now a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center, according to HealthDay.
For the study, researchers tracked roughly 37,000 people who've fainted, but had no pre-existing health conditions, for about 4.5 years. Researchers then compared the result from these people to the results of more than 185,000 similar people who have never fainted.
Researchers wanted to see whether people who've fainted in the past were more likely to die prematurely, have recurrent fainting episodes, develop cardiovascular problems or have a heart device, like a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, compared to the general population.
Fainting is a temporary loss of consciousness due to the sudden decline of blood flow to the brain. According to the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, fainting or "passing out" is related to a sudden drop in blood pressure that leads to decreased blood flow in the brain. Vasovagal syncope is the most common type of fainting episode, and is usually triggered by events like emotional stress, pain, the sight of blood or prolonged standing.
However, researchers said that the latest findings suggest that fainting in seemingly healthy people could represent a first symptom of more severe underlying cardiovascular conditions.
Researchers also 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," Ruwald explained, adding that fainting is quite common among many other women in their 20s who have low blood pressure.
Even so, researchers said that the data suggest that a 26 -year-old healthy woman who faints has more than twice the risk of premature death within a year and beyond compared to a woman of the same age who has not fainted.
Researchers noted that while the study found a link between fainting in healthy people and future heart conditions, it did not find a cause-and-effect.