Heart failure: How much salt should you have? Smart food swaps for a healthy heart

  • Oralie

Various studies have documented the adverse effect of excessive salt consumption in the well-being of your heart, and heart failure patients are no exception.

Your heart is the most vital organ in the body, which contracts and relaxes with each heartbeat, and whose function is to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. The current style of living affects our heart in various ways and with the fast-paced lifestyle, stress and unhealthy/convenient eating habits, happening all across the globe. This has given rise to various heart diseases like heart attack, cardiac arrest, heart failure, stroke, etc.

In India, experts have expressed their concern as heart failure continues to remain one of the most underrated and under-diagnosed heart conditions, and it has been rapidly albeit silently killing millions of individuals and leading to repeated hospitalisation.

What is heart failure?

Heart failure, sometimes referred to as congestive heart failure, is a progressive disease, in which the heart muscle weakens/becomes stiff over time, which reduces its ability to pump blood properly all over the body. This reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients circulated to vital organs of the body making them weak and unable to carry out their own function properly. Unfortunately, heart failure is increasing in an epidemic proportion in the country, said Dr Sundeep Mishra, Professor of Cardiology, AIIMS, New Delhi. It is estimated that the condition affects some 10 million people in India alone.

Salty matters of the heart

Various studies have documented the adverse effect of excessive salt consumption in the well-being of your heart, and heart failure patients are no exception. On the other hand, heart failure patients may prevent worsening of their condition by reducing the amount of sodium in their diet. The sodium in salt causes the body to retain water aggravating fluid buildup, which predisposes to worsening of heart failure. In reality, the fluid accumulation causes swelling in the ankles, legs, and abdomen. Furthermore, extra fluid in your body makes your heart work harder and can increase your blood pressure. Adhering to a low-salt diet can help keep high blood pressure and swelling under control.

How much salt is too much?

It is important to be mindful of the levels of salt consumption by checking the package labels to see how much salt content is present in them. Ideally, an individual, who eats 3 meals per day, should try to keep the salt intake between 500 mg and 1,000 mg for each meal. Congestive heart failure patients should not only abstain from sprinkling extra salt to their foods but also avoid foods that are inherently salty like bread, canned foods, salted nuts, cheese, etc.

Smart Swaps

Though the thought of a hearty meal without salt may seem far-fetched, it isn’t impossible. One can take care of the salt intake, by adding minimal salt to the food prepared at home and replacing it with spices and herbs to keep the food flavourful and delicious. Choosing healthy options like veggies, fruits, yogurt, etc, can also help you cut back on your salt intake.

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