Higher intake of sodium increases lightheadedness, finds a DASH-sodium trial (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) study. This finding published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension is contrary to the classical recommendations of increased sodium intake to prevent lightheadedness.
Lightheadedness with standing, otherwise known as postural lightheadedness, results from a gravitational drop in blood pressure and is common among adults. While mild in many adults, it has been cited as an important contributing factor in some harmful clinical events, such as falls. As a result, greater sodium intake is widely viewed as an intervention for preventing lightheadedness when moving from seated to standing positions.
"Our study has real clinical and research implications," said Stephen Juraschek, MD, PhD, the study's corresponding author and a primary care physician at BIDMC. "Our results serve to caution health practitioners against recommending increased sodium intake as a universal treatment for lightheadedness. Additionally, our results demonstrate the need for additional research to understand the role of sodium, and more broadly of diet, on lightheadedness."
The study's findings suggest that concerns about reducing sodium causing lightheadedness may not be scientifically based. It also further questions recommendations to use sodium to treat lightheadedness, an intervention that could have negative effects on cardiovascular health.
"Health practitioners initiating sodium interventions for orthostatic symptoms now have some evidence that sodium might actually worsen symptoms," said Juraschek. "Clinicians should check on symptoms after initiation and even question the utility of this approach. More importantly, research is needed to understand the effects of sodium on physical function, particularly in older adults."
The study also examined subgroups of the population, including older adults (age 60 and above) and adults with obesity. The effects of sodium on lightheadedness differed between these groups. In particular, higher sodium increased lightheadedness in younger people, but modestly reduced lightheadedness in older adults.
"Sodium is widespread in our foods, yet its effects are poorly understood," said Juraschek. "This study illustrates the importance of more trials involving the foods we eat so that we can better understand what constitutes a healthy diet."