I have recently been diagnosed with CHF (congestive heart failure).


I am a 56-year-old woman who has recently been diagnosed with CHF (Congestive Heart Failure). Part of my treatment is a diet low in salt and fat. When one says “low is salt” how much is permitted in a daily diet?

I asked my physician this and he said just not to “add” any salt to anything. I think this is too general because many foods are very high in salt. Can you give me a ballpark figure? Thank you.

The salt (sodium chloride) recommendation would depend on your symptoms. It could range from 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day. I would suggest you ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian who can read your medical chart and give you more specific nutritional advice.

If you don’t add salt at the table or cook with salt and don’t eat salty foods like ham, bacon, sauerkraut or any canned food, you would get about 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day. The new food label lists sodium content in milligrams per serving.

You need to limit salt because your heart is not as effective a pump as it was when you were young. Fluid will collect in your ankles or your lungs depending on which part of your heart isn’t pumping as well. Limiting salt will reduce the fluid you retain, the lower your blood pressure and therefore less fluid for your heart to pump around.

A low-fat diet (less than 30% calories from fat or 33 grams fat per 1,000 calories) may have been recommended for weight loss which will reduce the work your heart does just to maintain your body during normal physical activities. Your dietitian can work this into your nutrition therapy with a meal plan limited in salt and fat.