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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. Sodium is the key nutrient that must be controlled in order to improve the status of your heart failure (prevent fluid buildup). 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.

Why do you need to limit sodium or fluid?

Sodium

Limiting sodium to help treat heart failure cannot be overemphasized, especially as the condition progresses. 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. Most people need to limit sodium to less than 2,000 mg each day.

actionset.gif Healthy Eating: Eating Less Sodium
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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.

actionset.gif Heart Failure: Watching Your Fluids

Do you need vitamin or mineral supplements?

You can usually get all of your vitamins and minerals by eating a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.

Your doctor might recommend a multivitamin/mineral supplement if you are undernourished or cannot completely meet your nutritional needs through food.

If you take a diuretic (water pill) for heart failure, this medicine might change your dietary needs for potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc. Ask your doctor if you should take supplements or eat certain foods to get enough of these minerals.

Potassium

If you take a diuretic, ask your doctor if you need to take a potassium supplement or if you need to watch the amount of potassium in your diet. If you take a loop diuretic or thiazide diuretic, your doctor may suggest that you get extra potassium because these medicines lower your potassium levels. But if you take a potassium-sparing diuretic, you might not need to get extra potassium in your diet.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 26, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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