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Introduction - Following a Low-Sodium Diet with Heart Failure
It is important to decrease the amount of sodium you eat when you have heart failure, because heart failure causes the body to hold on to extra sodium. The sodium causes extra fluid to build up in your body. The extra fluid makes your heart work harder. It also causes symptoms such as swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen, shortness of breath, or weight gain.
A low-sodium diet can help you, even if you do not have symptoms of fluid build up, or if you are already taking a diuretic (water pill).
You may have heard your doctor or nurse talk about a low-sodium diet or a low-salt diet and may wonder whether they are the same or different diets. In practical terms, there is no difference between the two. Doctors and nurses usually use the terms sodium and salt to mean the same thing. This module will use the word sodium except when actually referring to table salt.
The typical American diet is very high in sodium. Even if you do not add salt while cooking or do not use the salt shaker at the table, you are probably eating too much sodium. That is because we eat processed foods, like frozen dinners, boxed noodle and rice dishes, canned soups, and canned vegetables. Most processed foods are high in sodium.
It may take some time to adjust to a low-sodium diet, but it is worth the effort. A low-sodium diet can help you feel better and allow your heart failure medicines to work better. It may even keep you out of the hospital.
Note that while this module concentrates on following a low-sodium diet, other nutritional issues may be of concern to you as well. For example, everyone should watch the amount of fat they eat. Also, if you have diabetes, you should watch the amount of sugar you eat. These issues are discussed in more detail in Module 8: Lifestyle Changes.This module provides information on:
- How to follow a low-sodium diet.
- The sodium content of selected foods and condiments.
- Substitutes for high-sodium foods and condiments.
- Reduce your sodium intake.
- Cook meals with low-sodium foods.
- Make good choices when you eat in a restaurant.
This module has a lot of information in it. You don't have to read it all at once. You may find it helpful to read it by sections and to come back whenever you have questions about a low-sodium diet.