Diet for an Enlarged Heart

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Open bag of potato chips (Image: etienne voss/iStock/Getty Images)

An enlarged heart, also referred to as cardiomegaly, is a symptom of another medical condition, such as heart valve problems and coronary artery disease. Symptoms of an enlarged heart include difficulty breathing, cough, dizziness and chest pain. Treating an enlarged heart includes managing the underlying cause of the condition with medication, surgery and lifestyle changes. Following a special diet may also help ease the symptoms associated with an enlarged heart.

Low-Salt Diet

Eating a diet low in sodium is important for people suffering from an enlarged heart. The heart condition may worsen when eating salty foods. Increased sodium may cause a person to retain water, which exacerbates symptoms such as swelling in the lower extremities, shortness of breath and will make the heart work harder. Common foods high in sodium include processed meats, such as hot dogs and lunchmeats, pickles, vegetable juice, cheese, chips, crackers and salad dressings. Keeping sodium intake less than 2,000 mg per day is best for individuals with heart failure, according to MayoClinic.com.

Control Diabetes

Diabetics with enlarged hearts need to closely monitor and control blood sugar levels. Having diabetes is a major risk factor for developing or exacerbating heart disease including an enlarged heart. The risk of heart disease increases when blood sugar levels are not controlled. Eating a diet low in sugar and carbohydrates can help keep blood sugar levels under control. Additional ways to control blood sugar levels include eating whole grains, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

It is important to avoid drinking large amounts of alcohol when you have an enlarged heart. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of heart failure and an enlarged heart because it can raise blood pressure, increase triglyceride levels, cause irregular heartbeats and is toxic to the heart. While drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of complications with an enlarged heart, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can actually reduce the risk of heart disease. A moderate amount of alcohol is one drink for women and two drinks for men daily, according to the American Heart Association.

Low Fat

Decreasing fat intake can help a person lose weight and control heart disease. People who carry excessive weight around their waists are most at risk for exacerbating heart conditions related to an enlarged heart. Eating lean meats and sticking with low-fat foods is best because fatty foods can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels and worsen an already stressed heart.

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