If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, your doctor will put you on a treatment plan at the earliest to help treat it and prevent your condition from worsening. You will be prescribed certain medications to treat heart failure. In some cases, your doctor may even recommend that you undergo surgery or have medical devices implanted to help your heart beat in rhythm. There are a couple of different types of congestive heart failure like systolic and diastolic. However, regardless of which type of congestive heart failure you have, there are certain dietary recommendations that you have to follow. Here are some tips on creating the ideal diet for congestive heart failure.
Ideal Diet for Congestive Heart Failure Patients
Follow the Mediterranean or the DASH Diet for Congestive Heart Failure
There are certain diet types that are often recommended for people with congestive heart failure.(1,2,3) These are known to be heart-healthy diets and have been designed to lower blood pressure and will also help you meet your healthy eating goals. The Mediterranean and the DASH diet are two of the most common eating plans recommended for people with congestive heart failure.(4) In fact, the Mediterranean and DASH diets are ranked as two of the best overall diets and the easiest diets to follow by the US News and World Report.(5) The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was ranked second as the best overall diet, and the Mediterranean diet took first place.
Both Mediterranean and DASH diet has many proven health benefits. The DASH diet has been designed to reduce blood pressure. The diet is based on a healthy inclusion of plant-based foods and heart-healthy fats. The Mediterranean diet is a common eating plan that is followed in most Mediterranean countries. Following either of these diets can help you prevent your heart failure from getting worse. It is also recommended that you have low-sodium foods while being on these diets.(6) Also, limit the consumption of prepackaged and processed food products.(7)
Reduce the Intake of Sodium
When you have a lot of sodium or salt, it can cause the body to start retaining fluids. When fluids start accumulating in the body, it can increase your blood pressure, which puts a lot of strain on the heart.
In people with heart failure, doctors encourage that they follow a low-sodium diet. Experts recommend that your sodium intake should ideally be limited to less than 2,000 milligrams per day for people with heart failure. However, this number varies according to the type of heart failure you have (systolic or diastolic), and if you have any other underlying medical condition.(8)
It is crucial to keep in mind that apart from table salt, sodium can also be naturally found in many foods, including poultry, seafood, red meat, plant-based products, and dairy products. Of course, the biggest source of sodium remains salt or table salt, which is added to most processed foods and homemade dishes.(9)
Here are some tips to help you restrict or reduce the consumption of sodium in your diet:
- Restrict the intake of prepackaged and processed foods such as frozen dinners, cured meats, canned soups, rice mixes, seasoned pasta, salad dressings, crackers, other condiments, and other similar snack items.
- While buying prepackaged or processed foods, make sure to read the nutrition labels. Buy low-sodium food items whenever possible.
- Reduce the amount of salt you add to your dishes while cooking. To bring flavor to your food, you can season them with citrus juice, spices, herbs, and other low-sodium ingredients.
Include Nutrient-rich Foods in your Meals
If you don’t want to follow a specific diet or a prescribed meal plan like the DASH or Mediterranean diet, you should still focus on eating meals that are heart-healthy. One way of doing this is to learn how you can include healthy foods into your daily meals while also making heart-healthy choices at each meal.
When you have heart failure, it is essential to consume a wide variety of foods that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and other essential nutrients your body needs. At the same time, it is best to restrict your intake of foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients.
As per recommendations of the American Heart Association (AHA), one should eat a diet rich in plant-based foods like:(10)
- Beans and other legumes
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
You can also include lean animal products like:
- Skinless poultry
- Low-fat dairy products
At the same time, though, you should also restrict the consumption of red meat, sweets, and any food that is high in trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, cholesterol, or refined sugar.(11)
Limit Your Intake of Fluids
As strange as it may sound, if you have heart failure, your doctor is going to encourage you to keep a track and restrict your daily intake of fluids. However, you will still need to drink enough fluids to remain hydrated. In people with heart failure, drinking too many fluids may increase your blood pressure and put a lot of strain on the heart.
You should ask your doctor about how many cups of fluids you should be drinking every day. In some cases, your doctor might also prescribe a class of medication known as diuretics or water pills that help the body flush out excess fluids.(12)
Restrict the Consumption of Alcohol
If you have been diagnosed with heart failure, your doctor will encourage you to restrict the consumption of alcohol. This will help protect your heart and blood vessels. Drinking too much alcohol can increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack, along with other health conditions.(13,14)
It is always better to ask your doctor before drinking moderate amounts of alcohol as well.
Understand the Concept of Calorie Restriction
In many cases, your doctor may advise you to lose weight to cut down the strain on your heart. To lose weight, you will need to consume fewer calories than you usually do. However, before you start limiting your calorie intake, it is necessary to ask your doctor if you should restrict your calorie intake to lose weight or try to lose weight in some other manner.
If you need help in cutting down your calorie intake, your doctor may also refer you to a dietitian, who will help you learn how to still have nutrient-rich foods while also cutting down the calorie intake. Your dietitian will also help you learn how to select low-calorie foods that keep you feeling full and satisfied for a more extended period of time.
Having a nutrient-rich and well-balanced diet is important for people with heart failure. A nutritious diet will help you boost your physical and mental health as you get treated for heart failure. Following a diagnosis of heart failure, your doctor may advise you to restrict the consumption of salt, processed and prepackaged foods, alcohol, fast foods, and junk foods, and some fluids. It is best to take the help of a dietitian to carry out these changes to your diet in a healthy way that doesn’t leave you craving junk food and sugar.
- Kerley, C.P., 2018. A review of plant-based diets to prevent and treat heart failure. Cardiac failure review, 4(1), p.54.
- Chess, D.J. and Stanley, W.C., 2008. Role of diet and fuel overabundance in the development and progression of heart failure. Cardiovascular research, 79(2), pp.269-278.
- Levitan, E.B., Wolk, A. and Mittleman, M.A., 2009. Consistency with the DASH diet and incidence of heart failure. Archives of internal medicine, 169(9), pp.851-857.
- Fitó, M., Estruch, R., Salas‐Salvadó, J., Martínez‐Gonzalez, M.A., Arós, F., Vila, J., Corella, D., Díaz, O., Sáez, G., De La Torre, R. and Mitjavila, M.T., 2014. Effect of the Mediterranean diet on heart failure biomarkers: a randomized sample from the PREDIMED trial. European journal of heart failure, 16(5), pp.543-550.
- 2020. [online] Available at: <https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
- Hendriksen, M.A., Hoogenveen, R.T., Hoekstra, J., Geleijnse, J.M., Boshuizen, H.C. and van Raaij, J.M., 2014. Potential effect of salt reduction in processed foods on health. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(3), pp.446-453.
- Kaluza, J., Åkesson, A. and Wolk, A., 2014. Processed and unprocessed red meat consumption and risk of heart failure: prospective study of men. Circulation: Heart Failure, 7(4), pp.552-557.
- Circulation. 2020. Dietary Sodium Intake In Heart Failure. [online] Available at: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.062430 [Accessed 14 December 2020].
- Gupta, D., Georgiopoulou, V.V., Kalogeropoulos, A.P., Dunbar, S.B., Reilly, C.M., Sands, J.M., Fonarow, G.C., Jessup, M., Gheorghiade, M., Yancy, C. and Butler, J., 2012. Dietary sodium intake in heart failure. Circulation, 126(4), pp.479-485.
- www.heart.org. 2020. Lifestyle Changes For Heart Failure. [online] Available at: <https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-failure/treatment-options-for-heart-failure/lifestyle-changes-for-heart-failure> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
- Carbone, S., Canada, J.M., Buckley, L.F., Trankle, C.R., Billingsley, H.E., Dixon, D.L., Mauro, A.G., Dessie, S., Kadariya, D., Mezzaroma, E. and Buzzetti, R., 2017. Dietary fat, sugar consumption, and cardiorespiratory fitness in patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. JACC: Basic to Translational Science, 2(5), pp.513-525.
- De Vecchis, R., Baldi, C., Cioppa, C., Giasi, A. and Fusco, A., 2016. Effects of limiting fluid intake on clinical and laboratory outcomes in patients with heart failure. Herz, 41(1), pp.63-75.
- Laonigro, I., Correale, M., Di Biase, M. and Altomare, E., 2009. Alcohol abuse and heart failure. European journal of heart failure, 11(5), pp.453-462.
- Walsh, C.R., Larson, M.G., Evans, J.C., Djousse, L., Ellison, R.C., Vasan, R.S. and Levy, D., 2002. Alcohol consumption and risk for congestive heart failure in the Framingham Heart Study. Annals of internal medicine, 136(3), pp.181-191.
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