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Dietary advice for heart failure

Posted by Renee Reeves on April 10, 2015 at 5:20 PM

Dietary advice for heart failure

Many people need to work with their GP to find a way of reducing their sodium intake and limiting their fluid intake. They should also try to maintain or increase body weight with high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods and food supplements.

Maintain a healthy diet

It is important to maintain an adequate calorie intake to prevent weight loss. If you have already lost weight due to loss of appetite, you may need to take in more calories. Having small, frequent, nutrient-dense and high-calorie meals may help you meet your caloric needs. See High-calorie meals to counteract weight loss in COPD for some suggestions for nutrient-dense snacks and meals.

Reduce sodium intake

People with heart failure retain sodium and fluid, so restricting sodium (salt) in the diet is usually necessary. The level of sodium restriction varies depending on the severity of the condition. Those with long-term heart failure with symptoms such as shortness of breath should aim to reduce their dietary intake of sodium to less than 2000mg per day.

If you suffer from heart failure you must do more than just “stay away from salt”. You must check food labels for sodium content, select only foods with less than 400mg per serving, and use herbs and other non-salt seasonings when cooking.

Limit fluid intake

People who have heart failure may be advised by their GP to limit fluid intake to six to eight glasses per day, which is about 1.5-2 liters (2 ½ -3 ½ pints). Fluids may be restricted slightly more than this for patients in hospital.

Take food supplements

High-protein, high-calorie supplements can help to increase calorie intake in a relatively small volume, and they are especially useful for people who have a poor appetite. The supplements are available in a variety of flavors. Note though that supplements should only be taken on the advice of your doctor or a state-registered dietitian.

Reducing salt intake

People who suffer from heart failure and those with high blood pressure should follow a low-salt diet. Reducing sodium has been proved to be one of the best ways of lowering high blood pressure.

Tips for cutting down sodium

• Use fresh or dried herbs and spices, such as cinnamon and cumin, to flavor vegetables

• Avoid using salt at the table.

• Use soy sauce sparingly: 1 tsp contains about 1200mg of sodium.

• Buy fresh or frozen vegetables or those canned without salt.

• Rinse canned foods, such as beans, to remove excess salt.

• Choose breakfast cereals that are lower in sodium.

• Buy low- or reduced-sodium or no-salt-added versions of foods.


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