High Protein Diet May Give Heart Failure Patients More Time

We understand that diet plays an important role in how well our bodies age and recent research has found that nutritious foods can not only promote health and longevity, they can sometimes even slow or reverse chronic illness.  A recent large scale European study has found that a high-protein diet for patients with heart failure could significantly improve survival rates. 

Although it is well established that protein consumption can help older adults maintain muscle mass which starts to decrease in older age, many seniors don’t eat the recommended 150-200 grams of protein each day.  Good sources of protein include meat, poultry or fish as well as nut butters, eggs, beans, nuts and cottage cheese or greek yogurt. 

The study out of the University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands, followed 2,281 patients with an average age of 68, across 11 European countries.  Heart failure, which occurs when the heart is not strong enough to properly pump blood throughout the body, affects nearly 1 in 10 seniors over the age of 70.  When blood fails to deliver enough oxygen and nutrients to the entire body, it cannot function properly. 

Heart failure signs and symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
  • Increased need to urinate at night
  • Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)
  • Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention
  • Lack of appetite and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
  • Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack

Seek emergency treatment if you experience chest pain, fainting or severe weakness, rapid or irregular heartbeat along with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting or sudden severe shortness of breath or coughing up pink foamy mucus.

Source: Mayo Clinic

After dividing the study participants into four groups, researchers found that those who ate the least amount of protein (40 grams or less each day) had a 46 per cent greater risk for death than those who consumed 70 grams of protein per day.  More study to determine the recommended amount of daily protein intake for adults with heart failure is needed.  Although the study did not specifically look for the cause of the link between survival rates and protein consumption, researchers believe, “it is likely that dietary protein builds muscle mass which is beneficial for health in these patients”.