Congestive Heart Patients "overdosing" on salt

We all may be bending our diets a bit since it is the holidays .. but for some, straying from a diet can be deadly. Tonight, KPLC'S Laila Morcos talks to a local physician who's admitting more patients to the hospital because of dietary concerns. The main culprit may be a surprise.

Cardiologist James Dunnick is busier this holiday season, admitting a number of patients with congestive heart failure.

"I had to put a half a dozen people in the hospital with a flare of their congestive heart failure." and he's seeing three times as many patients with near congestive heart failure in his office.

So why such an increase? "The obvious culprit is salt."

That's right!! CHF patients are basically "overdosing" on salt this holiday season.

"You might not have realized how much salt you had in this meat dish vs. that meat dish." since it's hard to keep track, we wanted to check out some holiday staples with "Heart Smart" Dietitian Kristie Evans. "For a low sodium food item, 140 mg. per serving is considered low-sodium."

And when you think of how many grams of sodium is allowed per day, "About 2000 mg of sodium which is equal to a teaspoon of salt," says Kristie, it can add up quick.

We take a closer look at some meat. "We're looking at a ham here for four ounces there's a little over 1500 mgs. Which is over half the sodium requirements for the day." Turkey would be a better option.

And of course we know that we have to be concerned about how much sweet foods we eat not just because of the sugar, but because of the salt.

The best thing to do the rest of this holiday cooking season?  Use more seasonings and less processed foods.

"Just become label readers. It's not the salt we add at the table. It's the salt in the food," says Dr. Dunnick.

That way, you can spend Christmas at home with your family, not in the hospital.

If you want to use a salt substitute, check with your doctor.

Some salt substitutes contain extra potassium which may be unhealthy for those with other medical conditions like diabetes.