What causes fluid overload in heart failure?
Jennifer H. Haythe, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
In heart failure, the heart’s pumping ability is diminished and the force of blood flow is reduced. The kidneys incorrectly perceive this as dehydration and therefore increase fluid and salt retention. This excess volume further impairs the failing heart and this vicious cycle leads to the body becoming overloaded with fluid. 
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Heart failure most frequently causes fluid overload. When the heart weakens, blood flow returning to the heart slows down, backing up in the veins and causing fluid to build up in the tissues. The kidneys also are affected by heart failure, which results in a less efficient elimination of sodium and water. Fluid congestion increases because of the retained water.

Fluid overload, which can cause swollen legs, can happen with heart failure and with kidney disease.

Kidney disease can also cause fluid overload. Besides eliminating the body&aposs waste products, the kidneys also play a role in balancing the body&aposs sodium and fluid. When the balance is not maintained as a result of impaired kidneys, the sodium and water accumulate, producing fluid overload.

When patients have too much salt in their diet, limiting the salt in their diet may help. Or, oral medicines, such as diuretics or water pills, may be prescribed to reduce fluid overload. However, many people with fluid overload must be hospitalized because these measures stop working and they retain too much fluid.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.