Salt and Water Retention and Heart Failure Connection

Salt and Water Retention

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which blood is not being pumped by the heart as well as it should be. There are some health conditions that can cause congestive heart failure, including coronary artery disease and high blood pressure. Sometimes, the underlying cause of congestive heart failure can be treated somewhat to improve symptoms. Other times, it cannot. However, generally, exercising, dietary changes and stress management can often play a role in symptom reduction. For water retention, a common symptom of congestive heart failure, diet can play an even more important role.

Salt and water retention are related to congestive heart failure because of the decreased pumping capacity of the heart. When the heart is not pumping as effectively as it should, blood is not sent around the body as quickly as it should and it can start to back up. When the blood starts to back up, some of the fluid found in the blood vessels can begin to leak. This fluid can end up therefore in the tissues surrounding the blood vessels and lead to edema (swelling caused from water retention). Thus, people dealing with water retention as a symptom of congestive heart failure are often advised to stick to a low salt diet (which can reduce obvious dietary water retention causes), keep their legs elevated frequently (to reduce swelling in the lower extremities and prevent further fluid buildup), elevate the head during sleeping, and persistently monitor weight for signs of fluid buildup. These steps to manage salt and water retention in persons with congestive heart failure are important to help with symptom management.

In persons with congestive heart failure, the symptoms of water retention may be a little different than they are in people who are simply retaining water due to bloating or menstruation. Congestive heart failure patients may experience water retention symptoms including fatigue, ankle and foot swelling (later swelling may appear in the belly) and shortness of breath. Obviously, weight gain may occur with CHF as salt and water retention can quickly attribute to added pounds.

Aside from these symptoms, the effects that are associated with everyday intake of too much salt and water retention still may persist with congestive heart failure. This includes stomach bloating and excessive flatulence. While normally, an increase in gas is associated with digestion, flatulence can stem from built up fluids, as it found with CHF. Thus flatulence can be associated interestingly enough with the heart and not digestion, when it is caused from water retention.

Because congestive heart failure is a long term and chronic illness, treatment therefore is also lifelong, with various aspects of management including medication, dietary considerations and lifestyle changes being required. A well rounded approach can both reduce the risk of sudden death as well as reduce symptoms. Drugs like beta blockers which can reduce blood pressure and Digoxin which can strengthen heart muscle contractions, are sometimes used in treatment. Additionally, because of the relationship of salt and water retention to congestive heart failure sufferers, both prescription and over the counter diuretics are often implemented. These increase urination and also help reduce fluid buildup. Some diuretics also reduce fluid in the lungs, which can help with breathing problems.

Some sufferers also like to use natural diuretics to help manage water retention symptoms. The health benefits of celery, for instance, include mild diuretic properties. While heavy handed doses of natural diuretics are certainly not ideal for persons with CHF, there are some natural herbs, spices and everyday foods that can contribute to a decrease in retained bodily fluids when incorporated as part of a doctor approved water retention diet that features nutrient rich options for natural diuretics.

Congestive heart failure requires medical care and management as well as lifestyle and dietary changes. The role that salt and water retention play on symptom development is well known and persons with CHF are thusly advised to stick to low salt diets. Additionally, incorporating more exercise and whole and healthy foods can have an opposite effect which overall can lead to better health and less risk of sudden death.