Congestive Heart Failure and the Heart Healthy Diet
Congestive Heart Failure, or CHF, is a medical condition concerning the heart. When diagnosed with CHF, a patient has a weakened heart that cannot properly pump blood to the necessary parts of the body. This condition requires extensive treatment and lifestyle changes in order to live as healthy and as normal a life as possible. Such lifestyle changes include a medicine regimen, an exercise program, and a heart healthy diet. While all of these factors are important, following a strict diet is a key element to controlling Congestive Heart Failure, and ensuring the best quality of life that can happen while living with this condition. A heart healthy diet includes low sodium intake, low fat and calorie intake, and reduced fluid intake.
When a patient is first diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure, his or her doctor will begin a treatment plan matched specifically to that patient. Part of this treatment plan is usually a heart healthy diet. Part of what makes Congestive Heart Failure so uncomfortable for the patient diagnosed with the condition is the fact that as a result of how the heart fails to work efficiently, the lungs and the body in general begin to retain large amounts of fluid. Though there is an abundance of fluid in the body, the fluid that builds up in the lungs of the heart failure patient makes it exceedingly difficult to breathe, which is already a difficult venture for the patient.
Where the heart healthy diet comes in is that ridding the body and lungs of excess liquid is important to be able to breathe comfortably. An abundance of sodium in a person’s diet causes excessive amounts of liquid to be retained. This is something a heart patient does not need, considering the large amounts of liquid that already makes itself a problem. Along with medication to help release retained liquid, a diet of low sodium limitations is often given to the patient. The standard amount of sodium allotted in a diet like this is 2g or 2000mg. If the heart patient is a unusually bad case, a sodium limit as low as 1g or 1000mg may be given. When a heart failure patient exceeds this level of sodium in his or her diet, he or she runs the risk of retaining relatively large amounts of liquid that the body, in its less-than-efficient state, cannot effectively get rid of.
Another aspect of the heart healthy diet is for the heart patient to eat many low-calorie, low-fat foods. Sometimes Congestive Heart Failure is caused, in part, by obesity in the patient. Two things are accomplished by eating these low-calorie, low-fat foods. One, eating low-calorie, low-fat foods helps to keep the heart arteries clear of clots. Heart patients already have a weakened heart and, therefore, should not weaken it further by introducing clots to the passageways of the heart. The other thing that is accomplished by this part of the diet is that weight is a contributing factor to being healthy or unhealthy. Obesity, in some cases, can cause the Congestive Heart Failure condition. Not gaining weight if you are already thin, and losing weight if you are obese is important to being healthy with CHF. A low-fat, low-calorie diet can help with keeping or getting to a healthy weight.
The last part of a heart healthy diet for CHF patients is a diet with reduced fluid intake. In much the same way that sodium increasing fluid retention is negative for the heart failure patient, drinking lots of fluids is sometimes negative as well. If a heart patient is drinking many liquids, it just makes it harder for the body to get rid of the fluids that are building up naturally. Keeping a diet low in fluids helps keep fluids in the body at a minimum as well.
There are many positive aspects to the heart healthy diet. Low sodium limitations, low-fat and low-calorie foods, and reduced liquid intake can be helpful in keeping a heart healthy lifestyle. Congestive Heart Failure patients are recommended to change their current eating habits to a heart healthy diet in order to become as healthy as possible and to live as full life as is possible with this condition.