Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Heart Failure Diet

Dietary changes for people with congestive heart failure include:

  • Control dietary salt: Lower dietary sodium by following a special diet that is low in salt. All heart failure patients should limit salt intake to 1,000-1,500 mg of sodium per day. Foods that are high in salt should be avoided.
    • Do not use table salt; consider a salt substitute with your doctor's consent. Season foods with dried herbs, garlic, onion, or lemons.
  • Fluid restriction: Ask your doctor what degree you need to restrict fluid consumption. Ask your doctor how many 8 ounce cups (240 ml) of water you allowed to drink per day.
    • Remember 2 cups (1 pint or about 500 ml) of retained fluid will equal one pound (2.2 kg) of fluid weight gain.
  • Heart healthy diet: Follow a proper heart diet, which is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Most people with heart failure taking a diuretic medication need to eat potassium rich foods.
    • Potassium rich foods include bananas, apricots, raisins, oranges, grapefruit, and peas.
  • Magnesium: Eat foods rich in magnesium. Heart failure drugs can deplete the body's stores of magnesium. This has been correlated with more severe symptoms and a higher death rate.
    • Foods high in magnesium include wheat germ, soybeans, oatmeal, nuts, seeds, low-fat diary items, and seafood.

A generally healthy diet for people with heart disease should include:
  • Control calories:
    • Eat just enough calories to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat quality fats:
    • Use virgin olive oil and other unsaturated, low-cholesterol fats.
  • Eat the right amount of fats, carbohydrates and protein:
    • Limit your fat intake to 20 or 30 percent, but don't substitute simple carbohydrates for fat.
    • Less than 7% of the day's total calories from saturated fat.
    • Up to 10% of the day's total calories from polyunsaturated fat.
    • Up to 20% of the day's total calories from monounsaturated fat
  • Avoid fad diets:
    • Eat a well-rounded diet instead.
    • Eat small, frequent meals.
    • Avoid large and heavy meals.
  • Limit cholesterol in diet:
    • To less than 200 milligrams a day.
  • Limit iron intake:
  • Eat enough dietary fiber:
    • Whole grains are best.
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Reduce salt in your diet
    • Optimal: no more than 1,500 milligrams per day.
  • Check with your doctor about supplementing your diet with B vitamins:

Continue to Heart Failure Fluid Restriction

Last Updated: Dec 8, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Heart Failure References
  1. Bibbins-Domingo K, Lin F, Vittinghoff E, Barrett-Connor E, Hulley SB, Grady D, Shlipak MG. Predictors of heart failure among women with coronary disease. Circulation. 2004 Sep 14;110(11):1424-30. [1535349]
  2. Chen QM, Tu VC. Apoptosis and heart failure: mechanisms and therapeutic implications. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2002;2(1):43-57. [14727998]
  3. Ebinger MW, Krishnan S, Schuger CD. Mechanisms of ventricular arrhythmias in heart failure. Curr Heart Fail Rep. 2005 Sep;2(3):111-7. [16138946]
  4. Mitchell J, Taylor A. Congestive heart failure in women. J Fam Pract. 2005 Jul;Suppl:6-7. [16134558]
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