The Link Between Dehydration and CHF

Nick Rosen, MD
Medically reviewed by Nick Rosen, MDFebruary 1st, 2021
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It can be a struggle to live with congestive heart failure (CHF). Because your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should, your quality of life is altered. Certain health concerns that you never had to think about before your CHF diagnosis are now at the forefront of your mind. One concern of living with CHF that often gets overlooked, however, is the increased risk of dehydration.


CHF & Fluid Buildup

There are various reasons why heart failure may start, but the bottom line is always the same: Your heart becomes too weak to pump blood. Obviously, this has many negative effects on the rest of your body and other organs, including your kidneys. As your body’s filter system, your kidneys can detect diminished blood flow and activate hormones that cause your body to retain fluid and sodium in an attempt to boost the volume of blood in circulation. The result is fluid buildup.

Getting Rid of Excess Fluid

You may be wondering, “How does fluid buildup in the body lead to dehydration?” While it initially seems like a contradiction, it’s quite easy to connect the dots. If you drink too many fluids with congestive heart failure, you’ll typically experience symptoms like swelling, weight gain, and shortness of breath. To combat these symptoms, healthcare professionals recommend that people living with CHF limit how much they drink. This warning, unfortunately, creates a double-edged sword. If you consume too many liquids, you could experience a range of uncomfortable side effects and symptoms. On the other hand, if you don’t drink enough liquids, then you risk dehydrating yourself.

Why Dehydration Is Dangerous

Many people think of dehydration as extreme thirst, but this is inaccurate. Thirst is merely a symptom of dehydration, which is classified as a dangerous loss of body fluid. Without proper hydration, your body can begin to break down and experience kidney problems, seizures, or in serious cases, hypovolemic shock. For these reasons, it’s incredibly important that you don’t let yourself become dehydrated while limiting your fluid intake. You can monitor this by watching out for other symptoms of dehydration that include:

  • Less frequent urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dry skin

Since CHF is more common among seniors, it’s especially important to avoid dehydration as part of this age bracket. A 2015 study from the International Journal of Preventive Medicine estimated that the fatality rate from dehydration in those 65 and older can be as high as 50%.

How to Balance Your Fluids

Finding the right balance between keeping yourself hydrated while limiting your fluid intake is important and tricky. For those whose heart failure is in the early stages, you most likely won’t have to limit your fluid intake all that much. Those with worsening heart failure, however, should typically consume 6 to 9 cups of water a day. Your doctor will ultimately be able to develop a care plan with you that is specific to the severity of your condition and your height/body weight.

DispatchHealth Is Here to Help

Living with a condition like CHF is hard on its own, but it’s especially tough during a global health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re seeking treatment or medical attention for your

CHF symptoms but don’t want to expose yourself to the virus, you can receive in-home care from DispatchHealth. We have a team of highly knowledgeable healthcare professionals that can help you with your treatment plan, order prescriptions, communicate with your primary care doctor, and assist in any other way possible.


It’s easy to schedule an appointment with DispatchHealth: Simply call us, fill out the form on our website, or download our mobile app.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

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The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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