The different types of a heart failure diet depend greatly on the severity of the patient's condition. Physicians often recommend diets that are 3,000 milligrams (mg) or 2,000 milligrams of sodium but may prescribe a completely sodium restricted heart failure diet. Patients with am extreme heart condition are sometimes given a diet that restricts fluids. One of the most important reasons for a heart failure diet is to reduce the work that the heart has to perform, and avoiding certain foods can help prevent blockages of the heart's arteries.
A patient on a 3,000 mg sodium diet should center their food choices on fruit juice, enriched white or wheat bread, low-sodium salad dressing, fresh poultry of beef, sweet potatoes, and fresh vegetables. Foods to avoid include vegetable juices, breads and crackers with added salt, salad dressings, and any salted pork products. Patients should also limit their intake of sauerkraut or other pickled vegetables as well as smoked, cured, or canned meats.
The 2,000 mg sodium diet is similar to the 3,000 mg diet, but patients need to be conscious of how much sodium is in each of their foods. These meals are typically bland, and can include boiled skinless chicken breast, brown rice, steamed broccoli, and apples. Patients should avoid the same foods as the 3,000 mg sodium diet, and also add malted milk or milkshakes, instant hot cereals or pancakes, instant pudding and cake mixes, and fruits processed with salt. Intake of hot dogs, sausage, crab, lobster, and vegetables that have been canned or frozen in sauce should also be limited.
A teaspoon of salt typically has over 2,000 milligrams of sodium but other spices can be substituted for flavor. Patients on a heart failure diet should sample garlic, basil, curry, pepper, or other spices that do not include salt in the mixture. Shopping patterns should also be adjusted and patients should pay close attention to labels for sodium content and other nutritional values.
A heart failure diet should be followed closely, even when eating out. Through self-education on recognizing high sodium foods, a patient can determine whether foods on a menu are suitable for their needs or can special order fresh vegetables and other low sodium foods. A positive change in diet can enhance heart function, reduce shortness in breath, and improve a patient's overall health. If a patient notices that they are retaining fluids, often marked by swollen ankles as well as sudden weight gains after eating a meal, sodium should be further restricted and a doctor should be consulted.