Pouring water

In the hot summer months, it is important to stay hydrated, but with heart disease, you also need to watch how much you drink to prevent fluid build-up.

Thirst is a natural function of your body to help maintain fluid balance. While it is generally a normal response, feeling thirsty can be caused by fluid restriction, which is part of self-care management for heart failure. In fact, heart failure syndrome itself and its treatment also contribute to the thirst response. In other words, it is normal to feel thirsty when you have heart failure.

At the same time, it is very important to prevent dehydration because being dehydrated means your heart has to work harder to pump blood. This can cause your heart to beat faster, cause an irregular heartbeat or even palpitations. In addition, dehydration makes your blood thicker and constricts blood vessel walls. This can cause high blood pressure and put strain on your heart.

Drink The Right Amount of Fluids

When your heart failure is not very bad, your health care provider may not place you on a fluid restriction. As your heart failure becomes worse, your health care provider may limit your fluids to 6-9 cups (1.5-2 liters) a day. Having other conditions like kidney disease may factor into their decision, too. If you are not sure how much you should drink per day, ask your health care provider.

Most of your hydration should come from water (do not drink sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde unless instructed by your health care provider because they have sodium and sugar added).

Other examples of fluids are:

  • Sparkling water (no sodium or sugar added)
  • Milk
  • Soups and broths
  • Ice cream and sherbet
  • Popsicles
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Gelatin desserts (Jell-O)
  • Tea and coffee (limit caffeine)
  • Soft drinks (limit quantity)

How To Control Thirst

Heart failure can make you feel thirsty. Here are some tips to help.

  1. Use lip balm to keep your lips moist.
  2. Limit your intake of salty foods and drinks. Limit caffeine drinks such as coffee, tea, or soda. Try caffeine-free drinks instead such as water, milk or juice. Limit salty drinks, such as tomato or vegetable juice. Remember to track your entire fluid intake.
  3. When you feel thirsty:
    • Chew gum
    • Suck on sugar-free hard candy
    • Suck on lemon or lime wedges
    • Have a breath mint
    • Eat chilled or frozen fruits like grapes or strawberries
    • Rinse your mouth or use oral swabs

Symptoms of Dehydration

Dehydration is different than being thirsty. You may be dehydrated if you have the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness in your muscles
  • Dark urine
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth or skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Urinating less frequently or in low volume
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

If you think you are dehydrated, call your cardiologist right away – day, night, weekend or holiday. They will be able to help you know how much to drink without overdoing it.