Posts Tagged ‘Sodium’

Tougher than a salt shaker!

June 10, 2010

Remember: Grand Rounds hosted on Adventures of a Funky Heart! June 15, 2010! Entry guidelines are HERE.

I hate salt.

Actually, I love a little salt; but salt doesn’t like me. I have Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), which is caused when the heart muscle weakens to the point that it has difficulty pushing the blood through the body.  Think of it like this: You buy a red rubber ball. Day after day you bounce your rubber ball – against the floor, toss it against the wall, ricochet it off the ceiling (I’m assuming you live in a house with unbreakable furniture!) and your rubber ball always works as designed. It always bounces just as high and just as well as the day you bought it. That rubber ball represents a normal heart.

Now imagine that you buy a red rubber ball and bounce it all day long. But as time passes, the ball doesn’t bounce as high as it once did. Either through some flaw in the manufacturing or a flaw in the rubber itself, your ball begins to lose its “bounce” and soon you have to toss the ball twice as hard to get it to bounce as high as it once did. That rubber ball represents a heart going through Heart Failure.

Since your heart can’t pump blood as well as it once did, you have to help it any way you can. One of the ways you help is to go on (and follow!) the diet plan. The diet has two rules: Consume no more than 2000 milligrams of sodium per day, and consume no more than 2000 milliliters of liquid per day. The 2000 milliliters of liquid isn’t that difficult to comply with – that’s a two liter bottle full of liquid per day. I have friends who drink a lot of water, especially when it is hot, and they may find it difficult to keep their consumption to under two liters per day, but for most of us it is not a problem. The problem is the 2000 milligrams of sodium.

How much is 2000 milligrams? A packet of Sweet’n Low contains 1 gram (1000 milligrams). So open up two packets of Sweet’N Low and pour the contents out on your counter. That’s how much sodium you are allowed per day.

You can cry now, I’ll certainly understand!

But you need to follow the diet plan that you doctor give you (your plan may not exactly be 2000 milliliters/2000 milligrams, it will be what your doctor feels is best for you) because you need to have to get the excess fluid out of you. Fluid makes you weigh more, and your heart has to work harder to get your blood through your body. Every pound you can lose helps your heart do its job better. So tighten up, we’re gonna fight this thing.

When you go to the store you are going to learn how to read a nutritional label. For the CHF diet, you are interested in two things: Serving size and sodium content. Both are clearly marked. Be careful – a common strategy to reduce the numbers is to reduce the portion size! So double-check that – can you really limit yourself to 2 ounces of chocolate? (My answer is “No!”)

You will find that many processed meats are no longer your friend. Soups don’t pass the sodium test very easily, either. And when labels brag about how they contain Sea Salt, your response should be “So what?” Sea Salt, Regular Salt, Moon Salt – they all contain sodium!

There are many salt substitutes available; Mrs. Dash is popular. I am not a fan of Mrs. Dash, but that’s just personal. it doesn’t appeal to me, but if you like it, enjoy it. You have to be careful with your salt substitutes – some of them replace the sodium with a little extra sugar, and some of them drop the Sodium Chloride in favor of Potassium Chloride. Some medications don’t mix well with Potassium, so read the label. I use Benson’s Gourmet Seasonings – it tastes really good, I recommend Table Tasty, their salt substitute, and Bravado, their chili seasoning. (And I’m not getting anything from Benson’s if you order, I’m just telling you what I like. You may find something else that appeals to you!)

CHF patients also need to monitor their weight. The best way to do this is after getting up in the morning, go to the bathroom and then weigh yourself. Do this before you shower or get dressed. When you are done, write your weight down and keep track of it day by day. If your weight goes up more than three pounds in a 24 hour period without an explination (birthday party, for example) call your doctor – you probably need a medication adjustment. Most likely you’ll be told to take an extra dose of diuretics (water pills) but the doctor may ask you to come by his/her office. Weight gain is usually a sign of fluid retention, and you already know that is not good for someone dealing with heart failure.

Fighting CHF will not be easy, especially at first when you are trying to get used to the new diet plan. But you can tough it out. After all, you are stronger than a little salt shaker, aren’t you?

More than you think

June 9, 2010

June 15, 2010: Grand Rounds Blog Carnival! Entry Guidelines HERE

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville, searching for my lost shaker of salt… — Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett (1977)

Don’t bother looking too hard for that salt shaker, Jimmy.

What did you have the last time you ate out? Or better yet, how much did you have? A 2007 report from the research journal Obesity that states that chefs regularly overestimate portion sizes. To make matters worse, the average diner underestimates the amount of food they have consumed. It’s tempting to try to fight this “portion creep” with willpower – after all, I don’t have to eat everything on my plate, do I? (If you are less than ten years old, the answer to that question is usually “YES!”) We can’t… if it is in front of us, we’ll eat it. Maybe mom and dad really did ruin all of us when they told us to clean our plates.

Portion creep doesn’t help when you are trying to watch your weight or eat healthy. It even affects our beverages – we’ll buy a “single” drink in a 16 ounce or 24 ounce bottle. I serving isn’t nearly that big – read the nutritional label. Or just ask anyone over 30 what a “Short Coke” is. (A 6 and a half ounce bottle of Coca-Cola) Interestingly enough, older chefs routinely serve less food than younger chefs, who honed their skills in the “Supersize me!” era.

Still trying to control your diet? I’m not helping much, am I?

So when we eat out we’re getting a larger portions, and naturally a whole heapin’ helping of ingredients… including our old friend, salt. Most of the salt in our diet comes from processed meat and/or eating out. If you are on the Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) diet, you have to watch the salt. And a nice meal out may not be so nice for your heart. Salt is under attack from all sides, people are calling for manufacturers to lower the amount of salt in foods (gradually; don’t make the entire nation go cold turkey) and there has even been a call for legislation to make this a law. But not so fast – when you remove most of the salt from food, strange things start happening to the food.

So what’s the answer? Ultimately, it is up to us – we’ve got to learn to order and eat smaller portions (Not easy) and complain to the manufacturers. You can also pick up a copy of Corrine Netzer’s Complete book of Food Counts. This book covers most of the national restaurant chains, and lists their menus and the nutritional contest of a lot of their items. It’ll give you a fighting chance the next time you’re heading out for a meal.

(I am not getting anything if you choose to purchase this book)

“Low Sodium” Salt – coming soon!

March 24, 2010

A big announcement came out of a PepsiCo investors meeting yesterday – the company is working on a “Low Sodium salt.” Now I know a bunch of my readers just shouted “There ain’t no such thing!” at their computer screen, so I will try to explain.

PepsiCo’s new salt is designed differently. When you eat a potato chip, only 20% of the salt (if it is “normal salt”) dissolves on your tongue and gives you the salty taste. You chew and swallow before the rest of the salty flavor has a chance to kick in.

PepsiCo’s new salt is shaped and sized to allow more of the salt to dissolve in your mouth – consequentially, they can use less of it. This is also a part of PepsicCo’s plan to cut the amount of sodium in its food products by 25% over the next 5 years. The new low-sodium salt chips will be introduced in a few days.

This could be great news for those of us with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). When the doctor tells you that you have Heart Failure and puts you on a low sodium diet, the snacks go out the window… at the very least, they have to become an occasional treat. A very occasional treat. Perhaps now we can have a chip or two without worrying if we are bumping into our daily sodium limit.

But this is Pepsico’s newest Secret Weapon (not only against Sodium, but all the other snack producers) so we don’t know what is in their formula. If it contains a lot of Potassium Chloride (a popular “Salt Substitute”, just replace the Sodium Chloride with Potassium Chloride) then it won’t do CHF patients any good. Potassium can affect any number of our drugs. And if you are on Warfarin, then you really need to avoid Potassium Chloride. Potassium is Vitamin K, which causes blood to clot. Warfarin reduces the ability of the blood to clot, and the two substances almost cancel each other out.

Reducing your salt intake is a good choice, especially if you have Heart Failure. It remains to be seen if the new “Low-Sodium Salt” is a step in the right direction or much ado about nothing.

Heart Failure

December 30, 2009

“You’re in heart failure,” the doctor told me in the spring of 2002. Oh, boy… I wasn’t sure what heart failure was but I knew that the last time I had it, I was rushed to Johns Hopkins for surgery. That’s a comforting thought. And the doctor said it calmly, casually, as if he had just told me a fact that was common knowledge. Don’t take it so hard, doc.

I learned later that my first bout with heart failure was because I was five months old and I hadn’t had any surgical intervention yet. Once the surgery was done and I stabilized, my heart was functional enough to do its job. What I had this time was Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Back then my heart was failing rapidly, really just coming apart at the seams. With CHF, my heart is failing again… just very, very slowly.

Imagine that you have a rubber ball. Day after day, you bounce your ball for hours on end. It’s nice and rubbery and no matter how many times you bounce it, it always bounces as high as the day you bought it. That’s how a normal heart works.

Now imagine you have a rubber ball, and you bounce it all the time. But this rubber ball has a flaw – maybe it isn’t formed well, or maybe the  rubber isn’t the highest quality, almost anything – but you begin to notice that your ball is losing its bounce. It takes more and more effort to make it bounce as high as it once did, and eventually no matter how hard you slam it into the floor, it just won’t bounce as high. That’s a heart going through Congestive Heart Failure.

If you google Congestive Heart Failure, you are going to get scared: A lot of the studies say that the average survival rate after a CHF diagnosis is five years. Obviously, you have to read deeper to find the truth. The studies that show a five-year survival rate usually take into account all diagnoses of heart failure during the study period – including the people who are already in the hospital with another illness and then receive the CHF diagnosis shortly before they pass. Since Heart Failure is fairly common in the late stages of life, they get counted in the study, even if that is not the main cause of their death.

Survival and quality of life with CHF relies heavily on the patient. You will be prescribed diuretics to keep fluid from building up in your body, and these will cause you to go to the restroom more often. You will also be put on a diet to help your heart beat easier, the standard CHF diet usually has two rules: consume less than 2000 milliliters of liquid and less than 2000 milligrams of sodium per day. That’s the standard diet, everyone is different.

The 2000 milliliters isn’t hard – that’s a two liter bottle of any liquid. (A friend of mind says that the 2000 milliliter part is harder, because she drank about a gallon of water a day before developing CHF.) Many people keep a two liter bottle in their home, and when they have a drink, they pour an equal amount into the bottle. This gives them a quick visual guide to how much that have consumed. Others just scribble the amount on a piece of paper (A 12 ounce can of soda is 355 milliliters, for example; almost all liquid products list the amount in ounces and milliliters) or do the math in their head.

The sodium restriction is much harder. For a few weeks, you’re going to have to read the nutritional labels on the food you buy closely, to check out the amount of sodium per serving. Processed meats are loaded with sodium, so if you are a fan of sub sandwiches… well, that might have to become an occasional treat, rather than lunch every day. And do yourself a favor and split it with a friend.

The best thing you can do is to stop using salt when you cook and allow everyone to season their own meal. And make sure that the salt shaker stays at the other end of the table. Mrs. Dash seasoning is popular when you are on a low sodium diet. Personally, I am not a fan of Mrs. Dash, so I use a Garlic and Herb salt free seasoning.

Every morning, a CHF patient should go to the restroom immediately after getting up, and then weigh themselves. Keep track of your weight, and if you gain more than 3 pounds in one 24 hour period that you can’t explain, call your doctor. The doctor will probably tell you to take a larger dose of diuretics that day, and if you are still up tomorrow morning, come by the office. After you get used to your diet and medications, you’ll know what to do and you won’t even call unless the weight just won’t come off.

The two most important factors in living a good life in spite of heart failure are a good initial examination and diligent self care. The people who are able to adhere to the diet, take their medications, and get some exercise do much better than those who don’t. Congestive Heart Failure requires a lifestyle change, you don’t get a vacation, and you can’t take a day off. Even if you are traveling and do not have easy access to a scale for your daily weight, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore all the other rules. In fact, maintaining your CHF control can be very difficult while away from home. But if you are determined to not let it beat you and to live your life to its fullest, Congestive Heart Failure can be controlled.

It’s all up to you.

Heart Failure, Salt, and Exercise

May 8, 2009

The two rules of the Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) diet are 1) keep your liquid intake below 2000 milliliters of liquid per day; and 2) reduce your daily salt intake to below 2000 milligrams of sodium per day. Keeping your salt intake down is crucial: less sodium means less liquid trapped in your body, which makes it easier for your weak heart to do its job.

Lowering your salt intake is also the hardest goal to accomplish. Putting down the salt shaker usually isn’t enough – processed foods are notorious for having high salt content.  Sandwich meats are among the worst, and those “heart healthy” soups are low in fat… but the sodium is so high, you can see it from below!

A new study shows that even people who were trying to keep their salt intake below 2000 mg overshot the mark. Ouch! And this just isn’t a suggestion – for a Heart Failure patient it is a critical lifestyle change. So if you are on the CHF diet, keep a close eye on your sodium intake. It may be higher than you think!

There is also a report out on something you can do to actively combat Heart Failure: exercise! Obviously, we are all different, so you should discuss an exercise program with your doctor  before you start. What works for me may not be good for you, so check first. But CHF patients who are able to add moderate exercise to their diet and medication have a higher quality of life.

So what is considered “moderate exercise”? Walking! 100 steps per minute for 30 minutes daily, (3000 steps in 30 minutes, if you are using a pedometer) five days a week is a good exercise program. That’s a pretty fast pace, so start slow and work up to it. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you don’t have to turn yourself into a treadmill trackstar overnight.

While you are walking, why not use the new FiTrainer? FiTrainer is a pair of  headphones that also includes an ear clip with a built in heart rate monitor. It is pre-programmed with several workouts (with music!) or you can plug in your own MP3 player. An electronic voice reports your heart rate through the earphones, so you never have to check a display!

A low salt treat!

January 22, 2009

“Hey, you want some popcorn?”

If you’re me, you almost say yes… and then you remember that most commercial popcorn recipes are full of sodium. Gosh darn it, this Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) diet makes me angry at times. Whenever I went to the movies, I would almost always buy the largest tub of popcorn they had! And I would ask the person behind the counter for an extra spurt or two (or three!) from the butter machine! Well, that’s not happening any more.

I miss my popcorn.

But then a friend passed this recipe along to me. It is simple, takes hardly any time, and best of al, has almost no sodium! So if you have to watch the sodium content like I do (or just want a fairly healthy treat) try this popcorn recipe:

Buy a jar or bag of plain popcorn. A bag of a store brand of popcorn will usually cost about $1.00; there shouldn’t be any sodium in it but double check the nutritional statement on the bag to make sure.

Pour 3/4 of a cup of popcorn into a mixing container. A small bowl will do just fine. Fill a spoon with cooking oil… and then pour the oil out. You want just enough to wet the spoon. Use the oil coated spoon to stir your popcorn until it is coated with oil.

Pour the popcorn into a paper bag and fold the open end closed. Shake it good, then place it in the microwave oven. Cook it for three to four minutes. You’ll be estimating the first few times you cook popcorn, but you want to cook it until there is at least a second between pops.  Take the bag out and pour your popcorn into a large mixing bowl.

If you want to you can add some melted unsalted butter; I usually add some Lemon and Pepper Seasoning. The good L&P Seasoning is cut very fine, you will sneeze after shaking it out of the dispenser!

You’ve got a good movie on the TV, right? If so, sit back and enjoy your popcorn!

Interviewed by a Fellow Blogger!

January 17, 2009

Here’s one of the reasons that there was not a post yesterday… I was busy participating in a “Blogger Interview”! The questions were presented by Strong One over at My Strong Medicine. His questions and my answers are posted below.

If you want to participate, it’s easy! Just follow five simple rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” Be certain that there is an e-mail address or website that I can use to contact you!
2. I will respond by e-mailing you 5 questions.  I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them 5 questions.

Strong One’s questions are in bold text.

1. Please tell me more about your blog.

Adventures of a Funky Heart! is written from my point of view as an adult living with a Congenital Heart Defect. I was born in 1966 with Tricuspid Atresia and I have had three heart operations in an attempt to relieve it. I started Funky Heart in July 2008, intending it to be a blog aimed primarily at other adult CHD survivors. That didn’t last very long – parents of children with a heart defect were commenting and sending e-mail, all saying “Thank you! We’ve never been told anything about raising a child with a heart defect!” How can you turn your back on people who are in the same situation that your parents were in? So Funky Heart has changed – it’s still an adult blog, but I include links to research, new drugs, and try to make it applicable to Heart Moms and Heart Dads as well as adult survivors.

2. How has your Congenital Heart Defect affected your life?

Everyone was called nicknames in grade school; it’s part of growing up. My special nickname was “Blue lips! Blue lips!” I’d run off and whine to the teacher, and of course, that just made things worse. So I learned how to laugh at my defect, and at myself. It’s difficult to make fun of someone when he is laughing right along with you! So I guess my sense of humor can be “blamed” on my defect.

The most difficult part of living with a heart defect is all the problems that are associated with it. I got into a coughing fit, leaned over, and threw up blood. That lead to my second heart operation. I was a junk food junkie until the day I developed Congestive Heart Failure and had to adapt to a low sodium diet. I remember thinking “Just hand me a pistol, because I’ll never be able to do this!”It’s been seven years since that happened, and I’m still going strong. There are monthly blood tests, medication changes, I had to stop taking one drug because it made my liver enzymes go crazy, and for a while I was on Amiodarone. It’s a good drug for suppressing arrhythmia, but it can quickly damage your lungs, your eyes, or your Thyroid.

One of the good things that has happened is that I have joined the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) and gotten very involved with their programs to support adult survivors of a Congenital Heart Defect. These are some of the most positive, supportive people I have ever met… you would think that there would be someone in the group who is pessimistic about their life; if there is, I have yet to meet them! I’ve made a lot of friends through the ACHA, and they are all survivors, just like me!

3. If you were not a survivor of an Adult Congenital Heart Defect, would you still blog? And what would it be about?

Probably not – Blogging had never crossed my mind because I didn’t feel that I had anything to say. I live in a very rural area, five miles outside of a town of 450 people. I love it because it’s so quiet, but if you ask me what’s going on, “A whole lot of nothing!” is usually the answer. For ten years I worked at a local agricultural museum; I enjoyed it but I don’t see much blog materiel in that!

4. How has your cyanosis affected you professionally and/or personally?

Cyanosis, for those who may not know, comes from the base word “Cyan” and means “blue.” When a person has low blood oxygen, they often appear to have a bluish tinge around their fingertips and lips. My oxygen saturation runs about 80% normally and drops when I do physical activity, so I can’t run or exercise as much as a heart healthy person. One of the best descriptions I’ve seen was written by another ACHA member in a letter sent to the Social Security Disability Policy Committee: “The best way to explain how it feels is to run around your house while holding your breath.”

I’ve already mentioned being called “blue lips” as a child. In high school my fellow students never understood why I got to sit out P.E. exercises when I felt like it. And being honest, I got lazy and sat out when I could have kept going. No excuse, I was young and stupid. Hopefully I’ve matured some since then.

I refuse to wear a blue shirt, since it brings out my cyanosis and makes me look ill. Red is my color, it makes me look healthy. When I worked at the museum, I always had some help whenever I needed it. Nothing was ever mentioned, I think the Executive Director read my application and quietly passed the word around. We featured meeting facilities, and had to change the layout at least once a week. I was the king of moving the round tables! Just tilt them up on their edge and get them moving, didn’t even have to fold the legs in.

5. What is your secret for being so positive and proactive about your condition?

It wasn’t that long ago that there were no congenital heart defect survivors – the first congenital   operation took place in 1944. Someone born on that day is still ten months short of retirement! Until the early 1980’s Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) was an automatic death sentence, then the Norwood Procedure was developed, and the oldest HLHS survivors are just now becoming adults. Now there are new developments in stem cells, replacing heart valves without open heart surgery, and patching ASD’s through a catheter. And more is coming!

One day, there isn’t going to be a need for CHD support groups. On the day when my support group, the ACHA, closes its doors for the last time, I plan to be there. I learned how to properly fold a flag while working at the museum, and if we’re bringing it down for the last time, I’m going to make sure it’s done right!

Pass the plate, gain a little weight. Walk a mile, make your doctor smile!

December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas Day 2008!

Thanks to the economy, this may not have been the most exciting Christmas on record (at least to the retailers) but the important thing is that we are all here!

Today was quiet; my family has our gathering on Christmas Eve. And I love every moment of it… until I step on the scale the next morning.  Then I’m not such a fan. I am so glad that I don’t have a talking scale, because this morning  it would have said “Unnnnh…. Come on, come on, read the dial and get offa me! Whew, that’s better… wait a minute, getting back on isn’t going to give you a lower reading! That’s not gonna wo-UUUHHH!”

There was a lot of options to choose from yesterday; starting with my mom’s barbeque. I can enjoy her barbeque because she uses very little salt, so a good bit of that goes on my plate. I get a little slaw but that’s it; the Vitamin K found in most leafy greens doesn’t get along well with my blood thinner. At least, that’s what I tell myself; I’m also a junk food junkie. My membership in the That’s not Good for Me Club is pretty much honorary these days, but old habits are hard to break.

So far, I’m doing ok – barbecue, rice, some slaw, and a piece of bread. Once I finish, I examine the desert table very carefully. Coconut Pie, Peanut Brittle (Already in individual plastic bags, so it is meant as take-out) an Orange Slice Cake – the candy, not the fruit – and “stickies”. Some people call these “haystacks”; they are Graham Crackers dipped into a Carmel coating and then coated with chopped pecans. When the Carmel coating dries, the pecans will stick to the crackers.

My aunt called and is running late, she sent word just to go ahead and start and she would catch up when she arrived. She walks in the door carrying a large container of thin cookies and a homemade pizza loaf. The cookies are a family favorite, but the pizza loaf… we’ve been having this Christmas gathering for years and I’ve never seen this before! Have you been holding out on us?!?!

She turns the oven to broil and shoves in the pizza loaf, and in a few moments in begins to smell wonderful. Well, I thought I was through eating… but I’ll take a small piece. I really shouldn’t, but it smells so good. Oh. Dear. Heaven. This is delicious. Maybe one more small piece….

More? I think you guys are trying to kill me, but hand me some before I pass!  Yes, that one right there, please!

And so on, until this morning, when the scale gave me the bad news. I hate pizza loaf! It is an abomination, and a pox upon my house! Keep it away from me!

Well, it is dreary and rainy today. Weather does funny things; after it rains, I can hear the train whistle blow as it passes through town, five miles away. I normally can’t hear that sound. Inclement weather will also cause your weight to go up. I’m sure that’s the problem… right doc?

‘Till next time!

Salty Language!

October 31, 2008

Yes, be careful… this post is chock full of salty language!

If you have heart failure, you have to really watch your sodium. The standard Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) diet allows you 2000 milligrams of sodium a day, and 2000 milliliters of liquid. Now the 2000 milliliters isn’t hard – that’s a two liter drink. In fact, I know some people who monitor their liquid intake by keeping a two liter bottle handy. Whenever they drink something, they pour an equal amount into the bottle – the bottle fills up, they have to stop. Summer months can be harder, of course, but I’m figuring out that the trick is to drink throughout the day, just keep the amounts low. Instead of a 20 ounce bottle, why not just grab a six ounce bottle of Coca-Cola… what us Southerners occasionally call a “Short Coke.” (Specifically the 1991 bottle) Along with the reduced amount,  a lot of people swear that cold soda in a glass bottle just tastes better!

The sodium restriction is much more difficult – 2000 milligrams a day. A packet of Sweet ‘n Low holds a gram of sweetener, so you get two packets.

That’s depressing.

Open them up and pour them on the counter. That’s even more depressing.

Shopping is quite the adventure as you compare the nutrional panels on all of the products you want to purchase. Here’s a standard US Nutritional Value Chart, for those of you who may not live in the United States. One of the standard tricks for reducing the amount of calories, sodium, cholesterol, or whatever is bad for you is to reduce the serving size. And if you eat more than a “serving” – well, that’s your fault.

Some of our favorite things are out, as you may guess. Prepared meat is high in sodium, so no more lunch at Subway.  Forget that ad on their front page about being “Heart Healthy”, we’ve discussed that before. As a friend of mine once said in a moment of frustration, “If God were fair, he’d have made Spinach bad for you and made ice cream with three calories per gallon!”

But there are a few things out there that will surprise you – Heinz is making a No Salt Added Ketchup, and it tastes really good. Regular Ketchup is sky high in sodium, so it is on the no-no list, but now I can enjoy a little something on my no-sodium French Fries.

And watch out for those salt substitutes. A lot of them replace the Sodium Chloride with Potassium Chloride. If you’re taking Warfarin, you can’t use the salt substitute… heavy amounts of Potassium makes your blood clotting medication not work properly. (I usually use no salt Lemon and Pepper seasoning)

Pickles are strange. Pickle slices seem to have more – sometimes much more – sodium than pickle spears. Remember all pickles are not created equal, so read that label. Another treat that I miss is boiled peanuts. The recipe is simple: Peanuts, water, salt, a pot to cook in, and a heat source. Mix the water and salt – a generous amount of salt – in the pot and bring to a full boil. Toss in the peanuts, bring the pot back to a full boil, and reduce the heat. Let ’em simmer at a low boil, stirring occasionally. In a couple of hours turn the heat off and let them cool.

Trouble is, no one’s figured out yet how to make a decent boiled peanut without using salt. I keep trying, though. Discovering Salt Free Boiled Peanuts will be nearly as important as sliced bread and inventing the remote control!

A Weighty Matter

September 9, 2008

I got on the scale this morning and my weight was 160 pounds… down one pound from yesterday. Still a bit heaver than I want it to be, but it is an improvement and I’ll take it.

And when I went to the seafood restaurant today, I passed on the chicken fingers and went to the salad bar. Sometimes, you have to do these things.

Your weight is critical when you have Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). Contrary to popular belief, Heart Failure does not mean that the heart “failed”, so to speak, but it is getting into trouble. There are a lot of things you can do to help it out, and losing weight is one of them.

When your heart fails, it loses its ability to pump effectively. Like a rubber ball that is bounced too many times, it has lost some of its elasticity, and is not pumping your blood as efficiently as it once was. One of the results is that your kidneys are not getting the blood flow they once did, and the toxins in your body aren’t being cleaned out as good as they once were. So your kidneys send a message to your brain: ‘Hey, we’re having some trouble down here.”

The brain sends orders to the heart: “Stop loafing, and work harder down there!” And like a good soldier the heart tries its best… which leads to the heart muscle getting weaker. The kidneys still aren’t cleaning the blood… and it becomes a cycle.

After being diagnosed with CHF, the patient is usually told to drop some weight, exercise, control his sodium and liquid intake, and prescribed diuretics. The more weight that comes off, the easier a job the heart has, and the diuretics certainly help in that area.

What is a diuretic? They are sometimes called “water pills”, and if that doesn’t give you a hint, they make you urinate… hopefully a lot. Diuretics help the kidneys do their job more effectively, and since most of your weight gain in Heart Failure is going to be liquid based, so much the better. Trust me, whenever you walk into a store from now on, you’ll scan the building for signs that say “restroom”.

Weight is so important to someone in CHF that they are told to start keeping a record of how much they weigh every day. You should start your day by going to the bathroom first thing, and then weighing yourself. ONLY WEIGH ONCE A DAY. Your weight fluctuates during the day, and weighing every few hours will drive you batty. You should not be dressed when you weigh, and you should strive to wear about the same thing every time you weigh. Be consistant.

This number is going to be very important – it’s almost like a “tripwire”. If you gain more than 3 pounds in a day and there is not a good reason (Overindulged at your recent birthday party, for example – sorry, doc!) then you need to call your doctor’s office and report it. He/She will probably instruct you to take an extra diuretic and see what happens, or if it is extreme, you may be told to come in to the office. Weather changes will cause your weight to fluctuate, also. I’ve learned that if it is raining when I get up, my weight is probably going to be up a little bit. As time passes and you learn how your body reacts, the doctor may allow you to take extra diuretics without calling in, but until you are explicitly told that you can do that, make the call and ask permission.

Fighting Congestive Heart Failure is not easy… but it can be done. CHF is not the death sentance it used to be.