With the new year upon us, many of us have resolutions, especially when it comes to taking better care of our health. With that in mind, have you or anyone you know of fainted? Many think of fainting as a minor problem but many times it's a sign of something far more serious. Renowned Cardiac Electrophysiologist, Dr. Nicholas Tullo and Trudie Lobban, founder of STARS patient advocacy organization joined me recently to discuss the dangers of syncope (fainting).
Candace Rose: Dr. Tullo, let's start with you- can you tell us about the link between fainting and heart health?
Dr. Nicholas Tullo: "I would love to. Fainting is a very common problem. We surveyed 1,000 people and found that 1 out of 3 people have fainted, and often multiple times. But what most people don't realize that fainting is usually due to some underlying problem with the cardiovascular system, and it's never normal. So people need to be aware that if they do have loss of consciousness; any kind of passing out or fainting spell, they should see their doctor because it may be a sign of serious heart rhythm problems."
Candace Rose: And Trudie, can you tell us about the STARS campaign and how they educate consumers about the dangers of fainting?
Trudie Lobban: "STARS is a syncope trust and syncope is the medical term for fainting, and we're launching a campaign: "Take Fainting to Heart Org" to reach out to all consumers whether they faint once or on numerous occasions or if they know someone who faints, that they should go to the website; there's lots of resources there. We're a non profit organization but all the resources have been approved by a medical committee and to ensure that they download the checklist- go armed with that to their doctors to make sure that they are seen, they're tested, they're diagnosed and more importantly treated. And treatment may be something very simple (a simple life change) or it may be something more urgent because some people such as the basketball players on the field that we've witnessed drop down dead; sometimes the only symptoms they've ever had is a faint, so it's vitally important that anyone who faints whether it's once or on numerous occasions should seek medical advice. But all the resources that's needed is at TakeFaintingToHeart.org."
Take Fainting To Heart – TakeFaintingToHeart.org
Candace Rose: Dr. Tullo, when should someone see their doctor about fainting and what are the warning signs it could be something more serious?
Dr. Nicholas Tullo: "Well, anyone who faints should let their doctor know. Don't ignore it because it may not be the first time and it may not be the last time, so always tell your doctor if you've fainted. The warning signs of a very serious problem, perhaps even life threatening is someone who faints without any associated problems- no warning at all. So you're standing on line one minute and the next minute you're down on the floor; that's a serious problem and can lead to devastating injuries and even death. So someone who passes out without warning, if you have a history of a heart problem in the past- so if you've had a heart attack or some kind of heart muscle problem and then you faint, that's a very bad sign. You need to be seen immediately, don't wait until your next doctors appointment. Go to the emergency room and be seen for passing out in the face of heart disease."
Candace Rose: My grandmother actually had a loop recorder implanted into her skin. She passes out, and it's been very effective.
Dr. Nicholas Tullo: "Yes, we put them in quite often in people with reoccurring problems because it may be three; six months until the next one and that's really the only way to effectively diagnose such an infrequent problem."
Trudie Lobban: "If anyone wants information on the loop recorder, again, we have patient information and medical information at TakeFaintingToHeart.org. It is a very simple device to monitor and capture these events, and it is important; we cannot stress enough how important it is to go to your doctor and don't just accept that 'oh it's just a faint. It's just one of those things.' Read the checklist, it will help you, empower you and your doctor to know what the next step should be."
Dr. Nicholas Tullo: "And you really should see a heart rhythm specialist because those are the people best equipped to diagnose your problem. Those are the people who implant the heart monitors and you really owe it to yourself to see someone who is very experienced and very capable of diagnosing the problem."