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Heart Failure Health Center

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Heart Failure: Eating a Healthy Diet - Topic Overview

Why is diet important for heart failure?

Diet is critical in the treatment of heart failure. Limiting sodium is typically recommended to limit fluid build-up. But some other nutrients or substances also play a role as well. Heart failure can become more severe if diet and medicine recommendations for heart failure are not closely followed. Medicine and diet therapy are most effective when used together in the treatment of heart failure.

Taking your medicines and following the diet your doctor has recommended for you will make it easier for you to breathe and help you feel better and be able to do more of your normal daily activities. A registered dietitian can help you make needed dietary changes by providing meal-planning guidelines that are realistic and specifically tailored to your individual needs and preferences.

Ask your doctor if a cardiac rehab program is right for you. Rehab can give you education and support that help you build new healthy habits, such as limiting sodium and eating heart-healthy foods.

Why do you need to limit sodium or fluid?

Sodium

If you consume too much sodium, it will cause your body to retain excess fluid. This extra fluid increases swelling in your legs and makes it harder for your heart to pump. Eating too much sodium can even trigger sudden heart failure.

Limiting sodium can help you feel better and prevent sudden heart failure.

Your doctor will tell you how much sodium you can eat each day. You may need to limit sodium to less than 2,000 mg each day.

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Fluid

Fluid intake is not routinely restricted. It may be restricted in advanced cases to maintain your body's electrolyte balance. Closely following your low-sodium diet will help to decrease or eliminate the need for fluid restriction. It is very important that you watch for any signs of fluid gain (swelling or increase in body weight) and report them to your doctor.

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