Low-Sodium Diet May Help Heart Failure Patients Live Better
September 25, 2013

Low-Sodium Diet May Help Heart Failure Patients Live Better

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

New research presented at the Heart Failure Society of America (HFSA) meeting in Orlando, Florida this week reveals that diet can dramatically lower hypertension and improve heart function in patients with a common type of heart failure.

Patients saw a drop in blood pressure similar to taking anti-hypertension medicine after following a low-sodium Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet eating plan for 21 days.

“Our work suggests diet could play an important role in the progression of heart failure, although patients should always talk to their doctor before making major dietary changes,” says Scott Hummel, MD, cardiologist at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

“We’re excited to confirm these results in longer-term studies that also help us understand the challenges patients face when they try to improve their eating habits,” added Hummel.

Diastolic heart failure, which is heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, happens when the heart becomes stiff and doesn't pump out enough blood. More than half of older adults with heart failure have this condition, which has no standard treatment -- although taking diuretics to help the body shed extra fluid is useful.

Most of the patients were in their 60s and 70s. They agreed to keep food diaries and eat only the meals prepared for them in the University of Michigan Clinical Research Unit's metabolic kitchen.

The meals matched the DASH diet eating plan and could be picked up and heated at home. The DASH plan calls for food that is high in potassium, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants and is recommended for hypertension treatment by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association (AHA).

The diet for the study also contains a maximum sodium intake of no more than 1,150 milligrams - far below what adults in the US normally eat (approximately 4,200 mg a day for men, and 3,300 mg a day for women).

Medical professionals have known for a long time that the low-sodium DASH diet can lower blood pressure in salt-sensitive patients, the U-M study has also shown that the DASH diet can improve left ventricular relaxation and reduce diastolic chamber stiffness, meaning a more efficient transfer of blood between the heart and arteries, according to Hummel.