Proper Diet for Congestive Heart Failure Patients

Having congestive heart failure can lead to serious health complications such as having fluid in the lungs or heart related problems 12. Diet along with medication compliance is an important part of the management of congestive heart failure 12. Monitoring fluid and sodium intake helps to prevent overloading the heart.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure, also known as CHF is a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs according to the Mayo Clinic 12. High blood pressure or other heart or kidney conditions can lead to congestive heart failure 12. The inability of the heart to pump blood efficiently enough can lead to fluid in the lungs or extremities, fatigue, or irregular heart rhythm. If congestive heart failure is not treated, it can cause kidney, heart or liver damage, or even sudden death 12.


It is important to limit sodium in your diet when you have congestive heart failure because sodium can lead to fluid or water retention 12. This, in turn, can put more pressure on the heart to work harder. Sodium is a component of salt, and is used to season many different foods. Read food labels for sodium content, avoid added salt, and discuss sodium content in menu items when you are going out to eat. Instead of using salt or sodium filled seasoning to flavor food, try lemon or fresh herbs.

Fluid Intake

It is important to discuss with your doctor daily fluid limitations for your condition if you have CHF. Some patients may have a specific fluid restriction that their doctor recommends. Measuring fluid intake is not as easy as it seems. It is important to remember that fluid is contained in soups, some desserts, such as gelatins, and other prepared food items. The best way to keep track of fluid intake, if you are on fluid restriction, is to keep a dietary log.

Foods to Avoid

Reading labels for sodium content is recommended. There are certain foods that are high in sodium that should be avoided. These include:

  • vegetable or tomato soups
  • salted crackers
  • bacon
  • canned meats or fish
  • cold cuts
  • dehydrated soups
  • pickled vegetables

Canned foods and dehydrated prepared foods are also high in sodium.

Instead of pre-packaged foods, try having fresh fruits and vegetables. Since you are preparing them, you know that there is no added salt. Check the labels of enriched breads and cereals for sodium content prior to purchasing. Lean protein sources, such as chicken or tofu cooked without sodium, are healthy choices for protein. For dairy products, try to stick with low fat or non fat milks, cheeses or yogurts.