A chronic progressive condition, congestive heart failure causes the heart muscles to weaken, affecting their pumping capacity. Congestive heart failure is also known as heart failure and refers to the stage of fluid buildup around the heart. This causes the heart to pump inefficiently, making it unable to pump sufficient blood to the body. Over time, fluids and blood fill up the other organs of the body like the liver, abdomen, lungs, and the lower body. Although the condition is life-threatening, it can be managed with medications and treatments, and a well-balanced and healthy diet can also be helpful.
Here are a few essential diet tips for people with congestive heart failure.
Lower sodium intake
Often, a low-sodium diet is recommended as high levels of sodium are detrimental to heart health. Eating foods with high sodium levels can cause the body to retain more fluids, and increased fluid build-up increases blood pressure as well. This adds to the strain on the heart and worsens the symptoms of heart failure. So, based on the type of heart failure, the daily sodium intake will be limited to about 2,000 mg/day. To meet this dietary requirement, one can use herbs, citrus juices, and spices instead of salt to season meals. Apart from limiting the consumption of salt, the following foods should be avoided to lower one’s sodium intake:
- Pre-processed and processed foods
- Canned soups
- Frozen meals
- Cured meats
- Seasoned pasta
- Rice mixes
- Salad dressings
Limit fluid intake
Drinking too many fluids raises blood pressure levels, which causes excessive strain on the heart and aggravates the symptoms of congestive heart failure. So, people with this condition are advised to track the amount of fluids consumed every day. It is essential to drink just enough fluids to keep one hydrated throughout the day. A doctor can recommend how many cups of fluids are required in a day, and in some cases, they prescribe diuretics or water pills to help the body to flush out excess fluids.
Limit alcohol intake
An increased level of alcohol in the body increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other heart-related disorders. Alcohol strains the blood vessels and the heart and slows down heart rate, which is especially a cause of concern for people with congestive heart failure. In some cases, moderate consumption of alcohol might not cause any problems, but it is important to consult a doctor as the safe level of alcohol consumption might vary from case to case. For those under medication, avoiding alcohol completely is advisable as it can interact with the medications.
Watch the calories
Obesity is often linked to congestive heart failure, and being overweight may also put undue pressure on the heart. Weight loss is often recommended to reduce the strain on the heart, and one needs to watch their daily dietary calorie intake to lose weight effectively. This can be done after consulting a doctor, who may refer a dietitian to help one cut down on the excessive calories being consumed. Following a diet plan with nutrient-rich and low-calorie foods is highly effective in trimming extra calories.
Eat lots of whole foods
Whole foods have fewer calories as well as lower carbohydrate levels, and most whole foods have complex carbohydrates that need more time to digest. So, such foods provide more energy and keep one satiated for longer as they are digested slowly. Fruits and vegetables are a wholesome addition to a diet for managing congestive heart failure as they provide all the essential nutrients to meet the daily dietary requirements. Additionally, whole-grain foods are recommended to cope with the symptoms of congestive heart failure instead of those made with all-purpose or refined flour.
Avoid foods with high saturated fat
Foods that are high in saturated fats are linked to cardiovascular diseases and high cholesterol levels, and reducing the intake of such foods can significantly lower cholesterol levels. Foods like whole milk and meats like bacon, red meat, and sausages have high levels of saturated fats. Lowering the intake of saturated fat to not more than 10 percent of the total daily calorie intake can significantly improve the symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Also, one is recommended to use oil instead of butter, lard, and other solid fats while cooking, as these solid fats have high levels of saturated fats.
Stay away from full-fat cheese
If cheesy and greasy food are weaknesses, it’s better to stay away from them. Full-fat cheese is high in sodium and saturated fats and doubles the risk for those with CHF. About one ounce of American cheese has nearly 6 grams of saturated fats and approximately 443 milligrams of sodium, so a cheese grilled sandwich is definitely not recommended. Having said that, low-fat cheese can be consumed in moderate amounts, but one must always check the labels and look for low-sodium options.