When you have heart failure, your heart does not pump out enough blood. This causes fluids to build up in your body. If you drink too many fluids, you may get symptoms such as swelling, weight gain, and shortness of breath. Limiting how much you drink and how much salt (sodium) you take in can help prevent these symptoms.
Your family members can help you take care of yourself. They can keep an eye on how much you drink. They can make sure you are taking your medicines the right way. And they can learn to recognize your symptoms early.
Your doctor may ask you to lower the amount of fluids you drink:
Remember, some foods, such as soups, puddings, Jell-O, ice cream, popsicles and others contain fluids. When you eat chunky soups, use a fork if you can, and leave the broth behind.
Use a small cup at home for your liquids at meals, and drink just 1 cupful. After drinking 1 cup of fluid at a restaurant, turn your cup over to let your server know you do not want more. Find ways to keep from getting too thirsty:
If you have trouble keeping track of it, write down how much you are drinking during the day.
Eating too much salt can make you thirsty, which can make you drink too much. Extra salt also makes more fluid stay in your body. Many foods contain "hidden salt," including prepared and frozen foods. Learn how to eat a low-salt diet.
Diuretics help your body get rid of extra fluid. They are often called "water pills." There are many brands of diuretics. Some are taken 1 time a day. Others are taken 2 times a day. The 3 common types are:
There are also diuretics that contain a combination of 2 of the drugs above.
When you are taking diuretics, you will need to have regular checkups so that your doctor can check your potassium levels and monitor how your kidneys are working.
Diuretics make you urinate more often. Try not to take them at night before you go to bed. Take them at the same time every day.
Common side effects of diuretics are:
Be sure to take your diuretic the way your doctor tells you to.
You will get to know what weight is right for you. Weighing yourself will help you know if there is too much fluid in your body. You might also find that your clothes and shoes are feeling tighter than normal when there is too much fluid in your body.
Weigh yourself every morning on the same scale when you get up -- before you eat and after you use the bathroom. Make sure you are wearing similar clothing each time you weigh yourself. Write down your weight every day on a chart so that you can keep track of it.
Call your doctor if your weight goes up by more than 2 to 3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. Also call your doctor if you lose a lot of weight.
Call your doctor if:
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Riegel B, Moser DK, Anker SD, Appel LJ, Dunbar SB, Grady KL, Gurvitz MZ, Havranek EP, Lee CS, Lindenfeld J, Peterson PN, Pressler SJ, Schocken DD, Whellan DJ; American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular Nursing; American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular Nursing; American Heart Association Council on Clinical Cardiology; American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism; American Heart Association Interdisciplinary Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research. State of the science: promoting self-care in persons with heart failure: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009 Sep 22;120(12):1141-63.
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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