Monitoring Your Diet and Fluid Intake

Lowering Sodium

Did you know that 24% of return hospital stays for heart failure are due to not following diet instructions? Follow your doctor’s instructions for a healthy diet to help manage heart failure symptoms and stay out of the hospital.

Monitoring how much salt (sodium) you eat is critical for people living with heart failure. Sodium in foods and drinks makes the body store more water, which may lead to swelling. Swelling in the body means the heart must work harder, and this makes symptoms of heart failure worse. To manage these symptoms, you may need to eat less sodium.


77% of the sodium that Americans eat comes from processed and restaurant foods.

Reading food labels and cooking at home are good ways to take control of how much sodium you’re eating. Foods and drinks with high sodium may not even taste salty. Sodium is often used to preserve processed foods. It’s a good idea to look at food packaging to see how much sodium is in it. Some examples of foods and drinks with hidden sodium include:

  • Canned foods
  • Processed foods
  • Convenience foods, such as soups, lunch meat, and frozen meals
  • Sodas
  • Breads
  • Packaged pasta and noodles
  • Rice dishes

You can reduce your sodium by replacing high-sodium items with ones with lower sodium:

It may take some time for your taste buds to adjust to cooking without sodium, but this change will be worth it for your health. Start your grocery shopping in the produce section, because fresh fruits and vegetables have almost no sodium.

Also, see the guide on How to Read a Food Label and Tips for Eating Out.

Heart Healthy Diet

In addition to eating less sodium, it is also important to eat a balanced diet with lean proteins, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Healthy fats, like those found in fish, seeds, nuts, and olive or canola oil, are good for overall wellness. However, saturated fats, like those in red meat and dairy, should be limited. Trans fats (those found in many snack foods, baked goods, and processed foods) should be avoided completely. These unhealthy fats can clog arteries and lead to weight gain, which can make heart failure symptoms worse.

Always consult with your doctor about your specific dietary needs.

Learn more about a heart healthy diet from the American Heart Association Guidelines.

Fluid Intake

Limiting fluid intake can help people with heart failure keep swelling down, which keeps the heart from having to work harder. One way to keep track of the fluid you are eating or drinking is to fill a container with the amount of water that is your daily fluid limit. Each time you drink or eat fluids, pour that amount out of your container. Another way to track is to use a measuring cup.

Ways to make it easier to drink less include:

  • Using small glasses
  • Rinsing your mouth with water
  • Chewing sugarless gum or candy to keep your mouth moist
  • Sucking on ice or lemon wedges
  • Using ice to make your drink more refreshing

You can use the sodium and fluid tracker to track these every day and stay under your limit.

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