It took much less than two weeks to learn that the world is not designed to help heart failure patients adhere to their treatment plans. The vast majority of the population, whether on the street or in the office, are not caretakers looking out for your health nor are they even necessarily understanding of special needs. It may seem obvious that care and management of your own personal health regimen is your own problem. However, when one looks at the way society has reached out and adjusted to assist other groups, it becomes all the more clear just how alone heart failure patients really are.
Weight-loss dieters now benefit from calorie counts on almost every menu, gluten-free options almost ooze from the sidewalks of any socially-conscious community, and tofu abounds for vegetarians and vegans. I have eaten out with friends of all such types and, while it will never be as easy as having no thoughts about what you eat, it is not only possible, but an accepted new normal to live with such dietary restrictions.
In the same way that we install ramps and special parking spots to make everyday life accessible to those with physical disabilities, so too have we made most dietary restrictions accessible. By accepting these differences and changing to accommodate them, society has leant out a helping hand to make something difficult to live with a little less so.
It is unfortunate, however, that this helping hand does not extend to heart failure patients. It is nearly impossible to find low sodium dishes at 90% of restaurants. Even if you do find low sodium food, it often comes in unhealthy portion sizes. No menu or waiter is able to tell you a dish’s sodium content, leaving no option but to resort to Google, a choice that involves either looking up the nutrition information of the entire dish (which you know will be inaccurate given slight differences in recipe) or looking up the sodium content of every single ingredient separately.
Whichever method is chosen, you are then faced with yet another debacle, something I’ve harped on before, the fact that the serving sizes one finds information about on the internet are entirely unhelpful. There are no shortcuts to living life like this. There are no shoulders to lean on. No helping hands from society at large. Heart failure patients keeping a low sodium, low fluid, low alcohol diet are on their own and have a monumental task ahead of them.