Those suffering from heart failure should take extra precautions to avoid excess sodium intake during the holidays, according to experts at Baylor College of Medicine.
"During the holidays, we see many patients who suffer complications from heart failure in the emergency room because they consume too much sodium," said Dr. Frank Peacock, assistant professor of medicine in the section of emergency medicine at BCM.
Heart failure occurs when the heart becomes weak and has trouble pumping blood to all organs. The organ affected by this the most is the kidney, which reacts as if the body is dehydrated, causing you to keep from urinating. The fluid retention then leads to complications, such as shortness of breath.
"Once the heart is weak, it cannot tolerate high blood pressure. It’s like having to blow water through a straw rather than a hose. The higher the blood pressure is, the harder the heart has to work because it has to push against that blood pressure," said Peacock.
Because excess sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, Peacock recommends those with heart failure be cautious about their sodium intake during the holidays.
Shortness of breath
If you do suffer from heart failure and feel a shortness of breath, Peacock recommends visiting the emergency room as soon as possible.
He recommends keeping medications with you when traveling during the holidays. Peacock advises that you not cheat on your diet, especially being cautious of foods that have surprising amounts of sodium including canned and pickled foods, soy sauce, cured meat and cheese. Peacock recommends reading food labels and seeking sodium free options at the grocery store.
Be particularly careful when eating at restaurants since you don’t know the amount of sodium in the food.
The Heart Failure Society of America recommends consuming no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day for those suffering from moderate to severe heart failure.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart failure, be sure to work with your physician to manage the diagnosis. For more information on heart failure, visit the Heart Failure Society of America's web site.