5 Gram Sodium Diet
Follow these guidelines unless you have been told to restrict your sodium.
Increase your daily intake of salt to 5 g (equals 5,000 mg or 1 tsp). To do this:
- Put 1 teaspoon of salt in an empty salt shaker and use it throughout the day; OR
- Read nutrition labels on prepared foods to estimate the salt in your daily diet for a total of 5 grams per day.
An increase of salt will cause some vasoconstriction* and reduce the amount of venous pooling (extra blood that collects in the veins) in the legs. Salt will also expand your blood volume by retaining fluids in the venous circulatory system and preventing a drop in your blood pressure. A healthy blood pressure will bring enough oxygen to the brain tissue to help prevent episodes of syncope.
* Vasoconstriction is the dynamic narrowing (constriction) of blood vessels that occurs to maintain blood pressure and help the circulation fight the effect of gravity.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
It is important to drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated and avoid dehydration. Drink fluids whenever you first feel thirsty, especially during and after exercise or in warm weather. Drink water and/or electrolyte-balanced, caffeine-free beverages such as Gatorade or Powerade. Patients with diabetes (who do not have high blood pressure) may drink beef/chicken broth, tomato juice, Powerade Option or G2, which have a lower sugar content.
Some specialists have advised 2 liters per day of non-caffeinated fluids. We have found the amount of fluid per day is best adjusted by your increase in thirst. In other words, drink fluids when you’re thirsty.
Increase Potassium in Your Diet
Follow these guidelines unless you have been diagnosed with high serum potassium. If you have diabetes, please ask your doctor for specific dietary instructions.
Increase your intake of potassium by natural sources. Some potassium-rich foods include:
- Dried fruits: Raisins, prunes, apricots, dates
- Fresh fruits: Bananas, strawberries,watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges
- Fresh vegetables: Beets, greens, spinach, peas, tomatoes, mushrooms
- Dried vegetables: Beans, peas
- Fresh meats: Turkey, fish, beef
- Fresh orange juice
- Canned juices: Grapefruit, prune, apricot
- Get a complete listing of potassium-rich foods.
Avoid Large Meals
Eat five to six small meals instead of three large meals. When you eat a large meal, more blood is routed to your abdomen, which will reduce the amount of blood circulating in the body. This reduced blood circulation can cause low blood pressure – especially when standing after eating a large meal. Low blood pressure may lead to lightheadedness and syncope (loss of consciousness).
Be Careful when Changing Positions
- Do not stand in one place for long periods of time.
- Flex your legs if you must stand in line or in one place. It is better to sit down if you can.
- Take your time and be careful when changing positions.
- Any time you feel lightheaded, sit or lay down immediately and elevate your legs.
Avoid Exposure to Heat
Avoid standing quickly after taking a hot bath, avoid standing in a hot shower (use a shower chair), and avoid hot environmental conditions whenever possible. Try not to become overheated, since this will cause vasodilation (opening or widening of the veins). Vasodilation causes low blood pressure, which may lead to lightheadedness or syncope.
Avoid Decongestants and Excessive Caffeine
Decongestants and caffeinated products (beverages, foods and medications) increase your heart rate and could increase lightheadedness, which could lead to syncope. It is also important to avoid decongestants if you have high blood pressure. Some medications that contain decongestants are noted with a “D” after the medication name. To be sure if a medication contains decongestants, ask your pharmacist.
Alcohol is a vasodilator (opens or enlarges arteries) and can lower blood pressure, which may lead to lightheadedness and syncope.
Practice Mild Strengthening Exercises
Mild strengthening exercises, performed in a seated position or lying down, are beneficial. These exercises increase the tone in the thighs, legs and abdomen. Strengthening these areas will help reduce the amount of venous pooling in your legs and lower body, and will also reduce the symptoms of lightheadedness and syncope.
Other activities include walking and non-competitive jogging, but be mindful of the distance traveled so you don’t exhaust yourself and lose too much fluid from perspiration.
Immediately after exercise, sit down, elevate your legs, and drink water as well as a caffeine-free, electrolyte-balanced beverage (Gatorade or Powerade). Rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes. This would be a good time to eat “salty snack.”
Wear Support Stockings
Support stockings (with 20-30 mmHg or 30-40 mmHg compression) improve circulation. They also help reduce the amount of blood collecting in your legs (venous pooling), as well as reduce the symptoms of lightheadedness and syncope.
Support stockings should be worn during the day only. Do not wear support stockings in bed at night. Support stockings are especially beneficial when you expect to be standing or sitting for long periods, such as shopping, sightseeing, or traveling by air or as a passenger in a car or other vehicle.
As advised by your physician, please E-mail or fax your blood pressure and heart rate readings to the Center for Syncope and Autonomic Disorders at:
or Fax: 216.445.3102