Heart Health

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Heart Failure: Watching Your Fluids


With heart failure, having too much fluid in your body can lower sodium levels in the blood. It can also cause symptoms such as swelling. Limiting fluids, if your doctor tells you to, can help balance your body's sodium level.

Common questions about limiting fluids

When you have heart failure, you may have some questions about limiting fluids. Here are answers to some of the more common ones.

  • Does everyone with heart failure need to limit fluids? No. Most people don't need to limit their fluids until heart failure is advanced or severe.
  • Why is limiting fluids important? Too much fluid in your body can cause low sodium levels in your blood. You may have to limit fluids to maintain your body's sodium balance.
  • What can I do if I feel thirsty? It's very important to limit your fluid to the level your doctor suggests. But that can be hard. If you feel thirsty, try chewing gum or sucking on a piece of hard candy, a breath mint, or pieces of frozen fruit like grapes or strawberries. If your lips feel dry, try lip balm. But stick with your program.
  • Can I have alcohol? Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, which makes your heart work harder. Since you are allowed only a limited amount of fluid each day, you may want to choose healthier fluids. Ask your doctor how much alcohol, if any, is safe.

Do you have any questions or concerns? It's a good idea to write them down and take them to your next doctor visit.

How can you manage your fluids when you have heart failure?

  • Find a way of tracking the fluids you take in that works for you. Here are two methods you can try:
    • Write down how much you drink throughout the day.
    • Keep a container filled with the amount of liquid allowed for the day. As you drink liquids during the day, such as a 6-ounce cup of coffee, pour that same amount out of the container. When the container is empty, you've had your liquid for the day.
  • Count any foods that will melt (such as ice cream, gelatin, or flavored ice treats) or liquid foods (such as soup) as part of your fluids for the day. Also count the liquid in canned fruits and vegetables as part of your daily intake, or drain them well before serving.
  • Space your liquids throughout the day. Then you won't be tempted to drink more than the amount your doctor recommends.
  • To relieve thirst without taking in extra water, try chewing gum, sucking on hard candy (sugarless if you have diabetes), or rinsing your mouth with water and spitting it out.


Current as of: June 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.