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Sodium is a critical issue for patients with heart failure. A high sodium intake can cause fluid retention and therefore contribute to edema. Fluid accumulation puts more strain on the heart and can lead to shortness of breath. Salty foods cause the body to hold on to fluids contributing to congestion. Most people consume much more salt than they need. Salt (sodium) is required by the body, but only in small amounts. Try to keep your sodium intake to no more than two grams per day.

Do not add salt to your food. Also, avoid sources of “hidden” salt: check out the table of high salt foods, and check them off of your grocery list.


In advanced cases of heart failure, your doctor may wish to restrict your fluid intake to reduce the stress on your heart. Check with your doctor to see how much fluid he or she recommends each day.


High blood cholesterol levels have been linked to coronary artery disease, the leading cause of heart failure. A diet high in saturated fats leads to a high level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. If you are at risk for coronary artery disease, reduce your intake of saturated fats such as those found in red meats and whole milk products and reduce cholesterol levels by limiting egg yolks and animal products.

Other Nutrients

Potassium and magnesium are important minerals in the diet. Diuretics used to get rid of excess fluid may deplete your body of these nutrients.

Some Good Sources of Potassium
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Fish like halibut or flounder
  • Prunes
  • Potatoes (baked or broiled)
  • Soybeans
Some Good Sources of Magnesium
  • Brown rice
  • Spinach
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts)
  • Wheat germ
  • Soybeans
Referral to Dietician

A registered dietitian can design a personal diet for you. He or she can assess your nutritional status and show you which nutrients you lack. A dietitian can also work with your doctor to design a personal weight loss program for you if you are overweight.

“Eating Plan for Healthy Americans”

The American Heart Association has some great suggestions for healthy eating

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