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Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

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Congestive Heart Failure and Nutrition

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
February 11, 2022
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When having congestive heart failure (CHF), you may feel lost to find what you should eat more or what you need to limit. This article will walk you through the diet and fluids intake with CHF.

Diet

Keep a low-sodium diet. The standard diet for heart health is the DASH diet. Approved and promoted by the American Heart Association, American Academy of Cardiology, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the DASH diet is the universal diet for keeping your heart healthy.

  • Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, ideally from natural sources, fresh or frozen.
  • Have fat-free or low-fat dairy and dairy and animal products.
  • Consume healthy proteins like fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils instead of processed or high-fat ones like sausage, hotdogs, or highly marbled meats.
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils.
  • Limit added sugars, like sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

If you have Diabetes and/or kidney disease, be sure to follow a balanced, carb-steady meal plan or one that is safe for kidney disease.

If your Cardiologist has added restrictions, follow them. The most common restriction that cardiologists may place for CHF is for fluids.

Fluids

Fluid restrictions range from 1500 ml - 2000 ml. Did your Cardiologist provide specific restrictions? It is crucial that you follow that advice. Your Cardiologist may recommend a specific level of fluid restriction depending on your type of heart failure and volume sensitivity.

Think about all your sources of fluids (water, juice, carbonated drinks, teas, coffees, milk, jello, even ice cubes) since they all are factored into a fluid restriction.

To help you measure:

  • 1 cup = 8 oz = 240 mL
  • 4 cups = 32 oz = 1 qt = 1000 mL = 1 liter
  • 8 cups = 64 oz = 2 qts = 2000 mL = 2 liters
  • 1oz. = 30 mL

American Heart Association recommends patients consume a standard 2 liters (2000mL) per day, unless otherwise directed by your physician. While water is 100% water, other fluids, like milk or juice may contain mostly water, but will also include some other particles that may make them less hydrating. While we always recommend drinking some water throughout the day, some low-sugar, higher vitamin fluids like milk or smoothies may make great substitutes.

Takeaways

When you have CHF, always keep in mind the DASH diet for not only blood pressure and cholesterol management, but also overall cardiovascular health. Remember that it's not just about the food you eat. Generally healthy lifestyle habits will assist you in controlling symptoms related to congestive heart failure.

  • It is important to manage stress to ease breathing issues, keep blood pressure controlled, and inflammatory response low.
  • Avoiding Flus and Colds if possible (per AHA guidelines), wear a mask in crowded or indoor places, and practice proper hand washing techniques
  • Quit smoking. The heart is already having trouble with CHF. Reduce the stress on the entire cardiovascular system by reducing or quitting smoking.

Follow this, as well as any other diets and restrictions provided to you by your cardiologist or family practice doctor. If you need help putting multiple diet requirements together, ask your iHealth UnifiedCare Dietitian! That’s their specialty, and they’re in your pocket waiting to help you.

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