November 24, 2003 - Like clockwork cardiologists expect to see dozens of patients with congestive heart failure two specific days each year-the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas. Why? The culprit is too much sodium (salt) in their patients' diets during the holidays.
Consuming too much salt causes the body to retain fluid and makes the heart work harder. For people with heart failure, the additional strain on their already- under-performing heart results in shortness of breath, swelling, and sometimes chest pain. If these symptoms become severe, patients are admitted to the hospital.
Salt comes in many forms around the holiday table including table salt, baking soda, baking powder, or processed foods high in salt. For heart failure patients, doctors recommend between 2,400-3,000 milligrams (mg) of salt per day. This is challenging when a quick Quarter Pounder(r) with cheese has 1240 mg of salt-nearly half of a maximum daily allowance.
But eating a big meal-regardless of the salt content-can put undue stress on congestive heart patients' hearts. Remember, merely eating less food introduces less salt into the system.
Tips to Avoid Over Indulging
Take the salt shaker off the table-this can reduce the average person's salt intake by 30% (2).
Cook without salt-this can reduce salt intake by another 30% (2).
Avoid seasonings that taste salty-soy sauce, bouillon cubes, dried gravy mixes, seasoned salt, and Worcestershire sauce.
Eat fresh or frozen instead of canned or processed foods.
Avoid salted meats such as bacon, lunchmeat, and sausage.
Avoid foods high in salt: dry cereals, canned soups, dry soup mixes, salted nuts, peanut butter, prepared mixes-muffin, cornbread, pancake, snack foods like potato chips, olives, cheeses, pickles, and fast food.
1 www.mcdonalds.com; "McDonald's USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items"
2 www.americanheart.org; "Cutting Down on Salt"