Hi, my name is Anna, and I have Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS). If you’re reading this and you have this condition too, let’s start a club! If you’re reading this and you’ve never heard of it, let me explain.
In simplest terms, sometimes my heart can’t pump my blood hard enough, and my brain doesn’t get enough blood, so I pass out. Certain things can make it worse, like standing for long periods of time, having blood drawn, or heat. I’ve fainted from all three. (Ooh there’s a fun story about an ambulance being called because I passed out after getting blood taken!) As you can imagine, this makes travelling a bit difficult, especially things like hiking. I love hiking! So how do I do it?
- I’m on medication. I used to take fludrocortisone (a steroid) everyday. Now, I only take it in the Spring and Summer, since that is when my syncope is the worst. I see my cardiologist once a year to evaluate my prescription.
- I know my body. I’ve been fainting since I was 12, so I know the drill. There are almost always clear warning signs. I’ve never just FAINTED. It goes like this: I start getting dizzy, then a bit nauseous, then I grey-out (it’s almost like blacking out, but you can still talk and hear people), then I black out, then finally, I faint. So, if I feel myself starting to feel light headed, I’ll sit down, no matter where I am. I’ve sat down in the middle of an aisle in a grocery store, I’ve sat down in the mall, I’ve sat down while standing in lines before, I’ve sat down in an elevator. I look stupid in the moment, I’m sure, but it’s better than fainting! When we hiked Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree, I had to sit down probably ten times on the way up. Bless my very patient boyfriend.
- I wear compression leggings. Now, hear me out. Before you say that compression wear is only for your grandma, know that it also helps with circulation. What happens with NCS is, when your blood pressure is dropping, it pools in your arms and legs. You can usually tell when I’m about to pass out, because my hands and legs will be purple! My doctor prescribed me compression stockings, but stockings are not practical when hiking. So I did my research, and found compression leggings on Amazon! They look exactly like regular workout leggings! Compression leggings make it harder for the blood to pool in my legs, and helps my blood circulate. I wore them while hiking in CA, and they seemed to work great. Obviously not a cure, but anything that helps, right?
- I eat and drink the right things. Functioning with this condition for so long, I’ve learned all the tricks. The best thing you can do for low blood pressure is EAT SALT. Yes, the opposite of what every doctor advises to most people, since salt raises your blood pressure. To the average person, that is usually a bad thing. Not for me! When hiking, I will always bring some crackers, salted peanuts, and I usually drink a full Gatorade before my hike, and bring one along too. Gatorade has an INSANE amount of sodium in it. Again, not so great for the majority of people, but awesome for me! I’ve also learned that Gatorade is SO salty, that you can add an entire salt packet (like the ones from McDonalds) to it, and it tastes literally exactly the same. Some people with NCS travel with salt cubes, but I physically cannot bring myself to do that. Yuck.
Maybe you have NCS, or maybe you just have low blood pressure. Either way, I hope these tips help you or someone you know!