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Diets For Congestive Heart Failure

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How To Read Food Labels

Congestive heart failure and low sodium diet

Food labels are standardized by the U.S. governments National Labeling and Education Act . If you look at the food label below, youll notice that theres a section that tells you how much sodium is in a serving of food. Pay attention to the following:

A. The sodium content is listed on the food label per serving size.

B. Ignore the % daily value and focus on the amount of mg sodium per serving.

You might also notice that some products are labeled Low sodium or No sodium. Low sodium means that food has 140 mg or less of sodium per serving. No sodium means that food has less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure is a condition in which the chambers of your heart dont fill with enough blood or your heart isnt strong enough to pump sufficient blood from these chambers to your bodys tissues.

Its commonly caused by heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and most often occurs in older adults and people who are obese .

As a risk factor for heart disease, high cholesterol can also increase your risk of developing heart failure.

Heart failure symptoms may include :

  • shortness of breath
  • swelling in your ankles and feet
  • swelling of your abdomen
  • rapid weight gain from fluid retention
  • poor appetite
  • fast heart rate

Your doctor may review your medical history, conduct a physical examination, and perform tests like a chest X-ray or heart ultrasound to diagnose heart failure .

Whats The Best Diet For Congestive Heart Failure

The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best diets to follow for heart health. It was ranked the number 1 diet according to the U.S. News & World Report.

In particular, it is rated amongst the best because of how healthy it is as well as how easy it is to follow. This makes it a perfect diet to follow if you want to find a sustainable way of eating healthy long-term.

Many credible organisations suggest following a Mediterranean diet for health reasons. These include:

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 150g / ¾ cup tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • handful pitted black kalamata olives
  • ½ red onion, finely sliced
  • 50g / ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • small bunch mint leaves, chopped
  • juice and zest ½ lemon


  • Cook the quinoa following the pack instructions, then rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly.
  • Meanwhile, toss the chicken fillets in the olive oil with some seasoning, chilli and garlic. Lay in a hot pan and cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside
  • Next, tip the tomatoes, olives, onion, feta and mint into a bowl. Toss in the cooked quinoa. Stir through the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and season well. Serve with the chicken on top.
    • 300ml / 1 ¼ cups hot vegetable stock
    • 200g can / 1 cup chopped tomatoes
    • 200g can / 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
    • 50g / ¼ cup frozen broad beans
    • zest and juice ½ lemon
    • coriander & bread to serve


    Dinner: Spicy Mediterranean Beet Salad



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    Full Fat Or Reduced Fat Dairy

    Although full fat dairy foods contain saturated fat, it appears this type of fat has a neutral relationship with heart health.

    The Heart Foundation recommends unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese can be consumed by the general population but for people who need to lower their LDL cholesterol, reduced fat versions should be consumed instead.

    How Sodium Affects Heart Health

    Congestive Heart Failure

    Sodium is a mineral and its naturally found in foods. But its added to processed foods, too. While sodium helps keep a normal balance of fluid in your body, those living with heart failure need to follow a low-sodium diet because it helps control symptoms and can prevent other heart problems.

    A low-sodium diet can help control blood volume and blood pressure. Excess sodium intake can lead to fluid retention, explains Taylor. Since people with heart failure often suffer from volume overload , a diet low in sodium can help lessen fluid retention, meaning the heart doesnt have to work so hard.

    High blood pressure can increase your risk for stroke, kidney disease and heart disease, like heart failure. Following a low-sodium diet can help improve blood pressure control, which can reduce your risk of these diseases from developing or worsening.

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    Fresh Fruits And Vegetables

    Fruits and vegetables are low in sodium and high in nutrients. Additionally, they are low in fat, calories, and cholesterol. Many fresh fruits or vegetables also have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, water, and fiber all of which are great for the body.

    When considering your fruit and vegetable options, remember that fresh fruits are healthier than frozen or canned alternatives. However, any fruit and vegetable options are better than not consuming them at all. If you do opt for frozen or canned vegetables, choose low-sodium products.

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    Important Nutrition Guidelines For A Heart

    Following a heart-healthy diet made up of high-fiber, low-cholesterol and low-sodium foods can help you maintain or reach a healthy body weight. Foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole-grain foods also help with digestion and controlling glucose levels.

    Use fresh ingredients and/or foods with no salt added whenever possible. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish are low-sodium foods.

    Most frozen vegetables are good alternatives to fresh vegetables. Canned or frozen fruits are acceptable as well. When youre grocery shopping, choose no-salt-added canned vegetables or rinse canned vegetables before theyre cooked this will remove a small amount of sodium in the product.

    Unless they have an added sauce or flavor, frozen vegetables rarely have added sodium, making them just as healthy an option as fresh vegetables, says Taylor. They are also an economical choice, since they dont go bad as quickly as fresh produce does.

    For those favorite family recipes, try making healthy swaps for ingredients that are high in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol and cut down on the amount of salt you add. Salt can be removed from any recipe except those that contain yeast. If youre worried about not having enough flavor, add fresh herbs and aromatics like leeks, onions, celery, carrots, ginger, garlic, lemon or peppercorns.

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    Life After The Meal Plan

    Find more recipes on our site

    Your journey doesnt end after 7 days of Mediterranean recipes for congestive heart failure. Its about finding recipes that can become staples in your household and creating eating habits that actually last.

    Weve got plenty of recipes online already. Just use the search function on our home page if youre looking for a specific ingredient or check out our recipe page.

    Start a 28 Day Mediterranean Diet Plan for Congestive Heart Failure

    Weve created a 4-week Mediterranean diet meal plan that follows the same format as this 7-day meal plan pdf. In it contains four weeks of meal plans, recipes, shopping lists and prep guides all available in digital format.


    We would like to take a moment to note that this post is for information purposes only. It does not claim to provide medical advice or to be able to treat any medical condition. It makes no claims in respect to weight loss, either in terms of the amount or rate at which weight loss could be achieved. If you have any concerns regarding your health please contact your medical practitioner before making changes.

    Dash Versus The Mediterranean Diet

    Congestive Heart Failure – Your Diet

    Both dietary patterns are plant-based and low in red/processed meat, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. A prospective study involving 3,215 women with pre-existing HF reported 16 % and 15 % decreases in mortality rates in women with HF with adherence to DASH and the MedDiet, respectively, but these observations were only statistically significant for DASH.

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    Diet For Congestive Heart Failure Patients

    To improve the patients health, the doctor recommends certain dietary changes that need to be followed lifelong.


    Drink enough water is what everyone says to stay healthy and fit. Many people recommend drinking 8 glasses of water daily. However, this tip for health is not applicable to Congestive Heart Failure patients in the elderly. The reason is simple Water retention is common among Congestive Heart Failure sufferers, which many times causes swelling of arms and legs. So, it is obvious that the patient must keep a check on water intake to prevent the body from retaining fluids and swelling.

    Saturated Fats:

    Foods which has high fats such as processed meat, fried foods, chicken with skin, egg yolk, pastries, ice creams and cakes can damage your arteries and can cause you Congestive Heart Failure.


    It can be asserted that moderate alcohol consumption resembles a healthy heart. Once again, this statement doesnt hold accurate for people detected to have Congestive Heart Failure. In fact, drinking alcohol is likely to cause much more damage to the heart muscles. Thus, be it the wine, whisky or beer, an individual must refrain from consuming these alcoholic beverages.


    Get Rid Of The Salt Shaker

    When it comes to reducing salt in your diet, out of sight, out of mind is an effective approach. Simply getting rid of the salt shaker in your kitchen or on the dinner table can make a big impact.

    Need some motivation? One shake of salt contains about 250 mg of sodium, which is one-eighth of your daily intake.

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    Mayo Clinic Q And A: Congestive Heart Failure And Diet

    DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My doctor told me that I have congestive heart failure and I have to change my lifestyle, including my diet. What kind of diet should I be on?

    ANSWER: When patients have congestive heart failure, their heart isnt able to manage fluid well, and it builds up in the body. This fluid can cause shortness of breath, swelling in the abdomen or legs, and fatigue. If this occurs, diuretics, or water pills, often are prescribed to remove the excess fluid. Your health care provider also will recommend that you restrict your sodium, or salt, intake. Why is this important? Sodium makes your tissues act like a sponge, hanging on to water. This extra water retention, on top of the fluid retained from your heart not working properly, will make it harder for your water pill to work, and you likely will keep feeling poorly.

    So, what does it mean to restrict your sodium? The American Heart Association recommends 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of sodium per day for heart failure patients. Most Americans far exceed that recommendation.

    How will you know how much sodium you are getting in your diet? First, be aware that any added salt will add up quickly. One teaspoon of table salt is over 2,000 mg of sodium. And it doesnt matter if its Himalayan salt, sea salt or kosher salt all should be avoided.


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    Alternative Healthy Eating Index

    Congestive Heart Failure

    The alternative healthy eating index is a nine-component index. It includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, soy protein, cereal fibre and multivitamin use. It is low in trans-fat and alcohol. It also has high ratios of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids and of white to red meat.

    In a large prospective study, a healthy lifestyle including a high AHEI score was associated with a 77 % reduction in HF incidence. Large prospective studies focusing on AHEI score alone observed a 52 % reduction in the risk of HF in women and 28 % reduction in HF risk in those with pre-existing CVD or diabetes over 4.510-year follow up. One of these studies was a prospective analysis of two combined trials of antihypertensive medication. Higher AHEI score had a protective effect regardless of which medications were prescribed or the presence of co-morbidities . This result suggests that diet can be protective in the absence of pharmacology but can also act synergistically. This is noteworthy, as an additive benefit of nutrition to pharmacology was reported in one of the first reports of the MedDiet and CVD.

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    What To Tell The Family

    Heart failure is usually progressive. However, patients may be able to prolong survival, improve heart function, ameliorate chronic symptoms, avoid repeated episodes of decompensation, and decrease the need for hospitalization by following a low-sodium diet, restricting fluids, and taking medications as prescribed. Exercise conditioning is also important, as it can help improve exercise tolerance and oxygen uptake. The family may need to provide physical support as the patient attempts to recondition. Family support is also important to help the patient adhere to diet changes.

    What Are The Basic Guidelines Of The Cardiac Diet

    Here are some guidelines that can help you avoid fat and sodium:

    • No more than 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from total fat .
    • Less than 7 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat.
    • Avoid trans fats.
    • Consume less than 200 milligrams a day of dietary cholesterol.
    • Limit your salt intake aim for less than 2 grams of sodium per day or less
    • Drink alcohol in moderation: one serving per day for women and two per day for men.

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    Characteristics Of Heart Disease

    Heart disease results from the narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood through a process known as atherosclerosis. Fatty deposits gradually build up on the inside of the artery walls, narrowing the space in which blood can flow to heart. Atherosclerosis can start when you are young, so by the time you reach middle age, it can be quite advanced.

    Plaque build-up can be considered as stable or unstable. If there is too much build-up of stable plaque, it narrows the arteries, causing pain and discomfort due to not enough blood reaching the heart this is called angina and it needs to be treated.

    Unstable plaque is inflamed and has a thin cap which is prone to developing a crack, allowing the blood to come in contact with the fatty contents of the plaque. The blood will clot to try to seal the gap but in doing so, the blood clot blocks the artery. This prevents the flow of blood to the heart, cuts off its oxygen supply and damages or kills the heart cells. This is a heart attack.

    How Much Alcohol Can You Drink If You Have Congestive Heart Failure

    Dr. Using plant based diet to heal congestive heart failure

    Alcohol increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can exacerbate congestive heart failure. Therefore, people with congestive heart failure should drink alcohol in moderation.

    The American Heart Association recommends limiting alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 1-2 drinks per day for men.

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    Fluid Restriction In Heart Failure

    In addition to a low-sodium diet, a fluid restriction is commonly recommended for heart failure.

    Limiting the amounts of fluids you consume is thought to reduce excess fluid from accumulating in your body, which can overload your heart and cause shortness of breath and swelling in your legs .

    A fluid restriction usually limits fluids to 1,5002,000 mL per day but can be as low as 800 mL .

    Here are examples of fluids:

    • water
    • alcohol
    • soups

    Foods like ice cream, yogurt, pudding, and sauces may also need to be taken into consideration as fluids.

    Like a low-sodium diet, however, the evidence for fluid restriction in heart failure remains mixed.

    A review of six studies found there were no significant differences in hospital readmission rates or death from any cause in patients who restricted their fluid intakes compared with those who didnt .

    The same review, however, found that brain natriuretic peptide levels were significantly higher in patients who didnt follow a fluid restriction.

    BNP is a hormone that is secreted when the heart becomes stressed, and increased levels have been associated with poor health outcomes and longer hospital stays for heart failure .

    While these results suggest that people who follow a fluid restriction have similar health outcomes as those who dont, additional research is necessary to determine whether fluid restriction can strongly be recommended or discouraged as a treatment option for heart failure .

    Can You Drink Coffee If You Have Congestive Heart Failure

    According to recent studies, as noted by the American Heart Association, drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee may reduce the risk of heart failure. But other studies noted that drinking several cups throughout the day may not be safe. When in doubt, talk to your cardiologist and nutritionist about the amount of coffee you can drink.

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    Congestive Heart Failure Diet

    A low sodium diet restriction is commonly recommended for reducing fluid buildup and other health complications from heart failure.

    A low-sodium diet generally refers to a limit of 1,5002,000 mg per day.

    For reference, most Americans consume about 3,400 mg per day, primarily from restaurants, prepackaged, and processed foods in the form of salt .

    Sodium is one of the two components of salt, the other being chloride. Salt by weight is 40% sodium and 60% chloride.

    The current research, however, remains mixed as to whether a low-sodium diet is actually beneficial for heart failure, and many observational studies have even suggested harm .

    Moreover, a low-sodium diet can be difficult to follow long-term and make foods less palatable and enjoyable, increasing the risk for unintentional weight loss and malnutrition, especially for older adults .

    That said, a more liberalized sodium allowance of 2,5003,000 mg may be more beneficial for heart failure .

    You can meet this recommendation by eating a diet that contains mostly fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains, beans, and legumes.

    These foods are naturally low in sodium and contain other important nutrients beneficial for heart health, including potassium, magnesium, inorganic nitrates, and antioxidants .

    However, while potassium is beneficial for heart health, you may have to follow a low-potassium diet if your levels are too high, which may occur if youre taking certain medications or have .

    Monitoring Your Blood Pressure

    Congestive Heart Failure

    Monitoring blood pressure at home, in addition to regular monitoring in a doctors office, can help control high blood pressure.

    Chart your blood pressure readings over time. This can reveal trends and help to eliminate false readings.

    Find out more about how healthy eating can lower your blood pressure with the DASH eating plan.

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