Staying heart healthy

Following a heart healthy diet is a very important part of managing heart failure. In fact, not having a proper diet can make heart failure worse. Talk with our doctor and health care team to create an eating plan that works for you.

A heart healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.

Your doctor will probably recommend that you follow a diet low in salt because salt can cause extra fluid to build up in your body, making heart failure worse.

For more information about following a healthy diet, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s “Your Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure With DASH” and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Web site. Both resources provide general information about healthy eating.

Weigh yourself every day, and let your doctor know right away if you have sudden weight gain. This could mean extra fluid is building up.

Taking steps to control risk factors for coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes will help control heart failure. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, work with your health care team to control these conditions. Have your blood sugar level and blood pressure checked. Talk with your doctor about when you should have tests and how often to take measurements at home.

Here are other steps you can take.

Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Work with your health care team to lose weight safely.

Do physical activity as your doctor directs to become more fit and stay as active as possible. For information about exercise and physical activity for older adults, see Benefits of Exercise on NIHSeniorHealth or visit Go4LifeĀ®, the exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging.

Quit smoking and avoid using illegal drugs. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking and drugs can worsen heart failure and harm your health. For help to quit smoking, visit or call toll-free, 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Get enough rest. For information about sleep and older adults, go to Sleep and Aging: Sleeping Well on NIHSeniorHealth.

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