When you have Heart Failure (HF), what you eat and drink is very important. Because HF is a chronic condition, you have more nutritional needs. Eating healthy often means making changes in your current eating habits. Many people find that a dietician, or nutritionist, is an excellent resource for support, education, and advice; such as, eating small frequent meals instead of three heavy meals. Planning what you eat is a good way to manage your HF. A nutritionist may provide in-depth, personalized nutrition education, tailored to meet your specific needs, which will help you feel confident as you become more active in your planning.
Eating a heart-healthy diet may help you feel better and give you more energy. Staying away from foods that make your HF worse is just as important. Too much sodium (salt) in your diet causes your body to hold on to fluid. The more sodium you take in, the more fluid your body holds on to; similar to a sponge being over-saturated with water. When your body holds on to extra fluid, this leads to swelling, or edema, that can worsen your HF and make it more difficult for your heart to do its job. A diet low in sodium will help keep your heart working at its best. You may be asked to limit the amount of fluids you drink; if so, try rinsing your mouth with water, or suck on sugarless, hard candy, ice chips, or frozen fruit, to quench your thirst. Be sure to weigh yourself daily to monitor fluid weight gain!
A healthy diet doesn’t mean giving up flavor and variety. A heart-healthy diet, such as the DASH diet, is rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods, lean meats and poultry, fish, and fat-free/low-fat dairy products. The DASH diet may help to lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. You may already be on a special diet for other health problems, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, or obesity. You will need to keep following that diet in addition to a low-sodium diet. Be sure to eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need, read food labels, and watch sodium (2 Gm daily).
If you are hospitalized for HF, a nutritionist may visit you for any learning needs. Many HF outpatient clinics have a nutritionist who can help you learn how to make good food choices. Changing your diet can be a challenge; but it is definitely worth all of your effort! A nutritionist may be helpful; but most importantly, you must take action and be informed!