Congestive Heart Failure
"Heart failure is a condition in which cardiac output is inadequate to meet the body’s needs" (CareNotes system, n.d.). Increasing demands on the heart result in the heart being unable to meet the challenge of pumping blood throughout the body. Fluid accumulates, reducing the capacity for physical performance. Patients with advanced congestive heart failure find it difficult to perform activities of daily living such as eating, walking, and sleeping. "Heart failure management requires a careful balance of sodium and fluid intake matched with the capabilities of a patient’s heart and the diuretic therapy provided" (American Dietetic Association, n.d.). If the patient’s sodium intake is too high, he will retain fluid, making it even harder for an already overworked heart to perform. Healthcare providers can make simple dietary recommendations for meal choices at home less perplexing – especially if the patient has not yet seen the dietitian.
Limiting the amount of salt one uses in the diet is the prescribed method of dietary treatment in congestive heart failure. Sodium is usually limited to two grams or 2,000 milligrams. Food labels make it easy to check the amount of sodium in a product. Decreasing the amount of dietary salt helps to prevent/control the amount of fluids accumulated around the heart or in the legs. Too much fluid increases the workload of the heart and can cause high blood pressure.
As we get older our taste buds do not work as well as they used to. Therefore, the elderly often use salt to increase the taste of the food since their taste buds are not as sensitive. Also keep in mind that patients can truly be doing a great job with limiting the amount of salt and fluid in their diets. However, depending on how well their hearts are pumping, diet is not always the culprit.
Sodium is present in everything we eat. Patients need to be able to make healthy choices and use foods naturally low in sodium. There are simple, unoffending changes patients can make in their diets. Once the patient is home and feeling better, he can schedule an appointment with the dietitian to review food records and have any further nutrition questions answered. The following is a list of simple diet changes one can make to improve the management of congestive heart failure.
Congestive Heart Failure Survival Skills
- Avoid using salt, or use half the amount currently used. Substitute with salt-free seasonings.
- Avoid canned soup. Homemade soup is good; commercial low-sodium soup is acceptable as well.
- Substitute fresh or frozen vegetables for canned vegetables.
- Limit the amount of convenience foods being used. Stick to fresh cuts of meat and limit processed meats.
- Limit the amount of fluids you drink and consume in foods such as ice cream, soup, and gelatin. Your physician will determine the amount of fluids you can have at home.