Food and Exercise

Vegetables in a basketEating a low-sodium diet is a great start, but for many of us this means making big changes. It is not just about eating differently, it is also about shopping and cooking differently and making smart choices when dining out.

What is a low-sodium diet?

Take a look at the information available at MedlinePlus (the National Institutes of Health's Web site for patients and their families and friends).

Preparing your shopping list

You will find some help at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthfinders website.

What do all these different food labels mean?

If a food claims to be... It means that one serving contains...
Sodium free, salt free or no sodium Less than 5 mg of sodium and no ingredient that is sodium chloride or contains sodium
Very low sodium
35 mg or less of sodium
Low sodium 140 mg or less of sodium
Reduced or less sodium At least 25% less sodium that the regular product
Light or lite in sodium At least 50% less sodium than the regular product
Lightly salted 50% less sodium than normally added
No salt added or unsalted No salt added during processing. If the food is not sodium free, the statement "not a sodium free food" or "not for control of sodium in the diet" must also appear on the label.

Are there some unexpected foods that are high in salt?

Click here to learn how to avoid hidden salt at the grocery store.

How can I find low-sodium food when I eat out?

When you see the Heart-Check mark on the menu, you’ll know right away that the meal has been certified to meet the American Heart Association standards.

For more tips on eating out, click here.

Is there any extra support for people with heart failure and diabetes?

You may find it helpful to connect with other people at the Diabetes Online Support Group.

How much exercise should I do?

When you suffer from Chronic Heart Failure there is no easy answer to what exercises are right for you. We recommend you consult your doctor for advice on how to be active. It is important that you learn about what fits for you, how to increase your activity safely and what you need to avoid. Click here to learn more.

What happens at a cardiac rehabilitation program?

Cardiac rehab typically runs for one hour, three days a week. The program lasts between six and 12 weeks, depending on your needs.

Staff will design an individualized exercise plan to help you meet your personal goals. They will train you to exercise on the equipment that is appropriate for you, such as:

  • Treadmills
  • NuStep® machines
  • Bikes
  • Upper body cycles
  • Rowers
  • Weights

During your one-hour cardiac rehab appointment, you will be on a continuous EKG monitor and have your blood pressure checked while exercising.

For more information, take a look at UPMC’s Cardiac Rehab Program.