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Heart Failure Diet, Nutrition

The heart is an important organ that pumps blood throughout the body, transporting vitamins and minerals needed for the proper functioning of other organs. Heart disease is a term loosely used to define problems that occur when the heart cannot efficiently pump blood. Research says it is the leading cause of death in the United States, Canada, and Wales. There are various reasons for heart disease or failure. It could be congenital, artery disease, problems with the heart valves, and high blood pressure, to name a few.  Recent times have seen a surge of awareness about heart failure and the importance of a healthy diet to curb it.
More often than not heart disease is a caused due to the food we eat and the lifestyle we live. A heart failure diet or a heart disease diet, which is prescribed to patients with heart failure, is one that has plenty of fruits and vegetables. It is also a diet of moderation; overeating and heart disease are a lethal combination. Diet restrictions for patients with heart failure include those foods that are high in fat. Saturated fats are especially a big no-no in the diet for a heart patient. A diet plan for heart failure patients is one that places restrictions on the amount of fat and sodium intake. The total fat intake should not exceed 35% of total calories consumed, and sodium should be 1500 mg or less. Foods for heart failure patients include those that are rich in potassium. Potassium helps in the maintenance of the heart and the nervous system.

Foods To Avoid Heart Failure

Heart failure is a serious illness that can lead to death if left unchecked. An important part of maintaining a healthy heart is controlling the food one eats as well as regular exercise that will keep the body fit. Foods to avoid with heart failure are typically high fat foods, any food high in sodium and cholesterol. Sodium or salt can be a major factor for increasing blood pressure, which, in turn, can place a lot of stress on the heart. Almost everything we eat contains sodium, so people with heart problems need to be extra careful of the amount of sodium they consume. The recommended intake is no more than 1500 mg a day. Saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol are other crucial culprits that lead to heart disease. Examples of these are greasy fast foods, butter, margarine, shortening, and palm oils. Saturated fat should be less than 7% of the daily calorie intake, trans fat less, than 1%; and cholesterol, less than 300 mg. A regular consumption of red meat such as beef is another reason for an increase in heart problems in the West; substituting red meat with lean protein such as chicken or fish, which contains good fatty acids for the heart, goes a long way in maintaining heart health. Also, low fat dairy instead of whole milk can really help to decrease the risk for heart patients.

Heart Failure and Food Deficiency

Certain food deficiencies also cause heart problems. There is a relation between deficiency of iron and thiamine with heart failure. Thiamine is a B vitamin. The body uses thiamine to aid in metabolism. It also helps in better brain and nervous system function. Thiamine is a water-soluble vitamin, which means that the body does not store it. This means that we need to keep consuming thiamine, otherwise this can lead to deficiency-related problems. A lack of thiamine can increase the risk of heart failure in patients who are suffering from the disease. Studies indicate that heart patients may need more thiamine than usual. It is important for patients to get regular checkups and pay close attention to their diet and exercise in order to prevent further complications. A deficiency in iron can also lead to problems of the heart. Iron also helps in metabolism. It is needed for the growth of red blood cells and is also needed to transport oxygen to other parts of the body. An iron deficiency leads to an increase in heart rate as well as pale skin and brittle nails. Fatigue is another common symptom. People with anemia and heart problems face greater risks, studies say. It is important to consult a doctor and immediately. Iron deficiency and heart failure is a dangerous combination that should not be ignored. Regular checkups will help to monitor iron levels in the body.


There has been a debate whether or not vitamins can reduce the risk of heart failure. So far, there is no conclusive evidence on vitamins for heart failure. Preventing heart disease is a combination of many things. Good healthy food that nourishes the body, regular exercise, and proper medical care can help to prevent accidents in the future. Vitamins by themselves cannot prevent the onset of heart disease. However, if the body is deficient of certain nutrients, it is important to take supplements in order to nourish the body.


A healthy diet can go a long way in curbing heart disease. We have full control over what we eat, and if we do a good job of it, we can see vast benefits in terms of improved health. Nutrition for heart failure patients is a diet rich in vegetables and fruit. Low fat dairy products and lean protein instead of red meat is excellent nutrition therapy for heart failure. Whole grains and organic food also adds to a healthy and wholesome diet.  High fiber foods as well as foods rich in potassium and magnesium are recommended for a healthy diet. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and E can help in reducing free radicals and therefore, the risk of heart disease.


Supplements for heart failure include those that provide the body with required nutrients for a healthier lifestyle. Many specialists are of the opinion that a proper healthy diet alone can provide for the body. However, this differs from case to case. A few popular supplements are fish oil. This contains good cholesterol for the body. Arginine and carnitine are supplements that are helpful for heart patients. Iron and thiamine supplements are essential for those who are deficient. You can consult your doctor for the exact dosage.


Herbs for heart failure are natural remedies that contain antioxidants needed to combat free radicals and prevent heart disease. Hawthorn is known for its positive effect on recovering heart patients as well as those in the early stages of the disease. It also helps to improve circulation. Green tea is another known herbal remedy due to the high levels of antioxidants. Willow bark known for its anti-clotting properties is another herbal remedy for the heart.


Signs of heart failure are as follows:

  • Pain in the chest
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Legs and arms feel numb or weak
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Slow heart beat
  • Palpitations
  • Pale skin colors verging on blue/purple
  • Tiring easily


  • Damage to the arteries
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Congenital heart defect
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Too much alcohol
  • Drug abuse
  • Stress


  • A change in eating habits and lifestyle is the best way to treat heart disease over a period of time.
  • Medication is another important way to improve the condition of a heart patient. This varies according to the type of heart problem it is.
  • Medical intervention or surgery is recommended when the condition is serious. Angioplasty and bypass surgery are two common and important ways to deal with heart problems.
  • Heart failure prevention boils down to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating the right kind of food, and exercising regularly. Medication and supplements can only help so much. In the end, eating responsibly and healthily along with exercise is the best prevention there is for heart failure.


Heart failure diagnosis is very important way of discerning the actual condition of the heart. Let’s take a look at what one must do to get a correct diagnosis:

  • Blood test.
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), which monitors the rhythm of the heart
  • Holter monitoring, which is a continuous ECG for about 24 to 72 hours
  • Echocardiogram, which gives detailed images of the heart as well as an ultrasound
  • Heart biopsy, where a small sample of the heart tissue is removed for testing
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan
Submitted on January 16, 2014