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Heart Failure: Checking Your Weight

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People who have heart failure need to track their weight carefully. Checking your weight lets you know how much extra fluid your body is holding on to. Sudden weight gain may mean that fluid is building up in your body because your heart failure is getting worse. Knowing how your weight is changing helps you manage your heart failure.

It's not hard to track your weight. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Weigh yourself on the same scale every day, at the same time each day.
  • Keep a calendar by the scale. Write your weight on it each day.
  • If you suddenly gain weight, call your doctor.

Heart failure means that your heart muscle doesn't pump as much blood as your body needs. Because your heart can't pump well, your body tries to make up for it. To do this:

  • Your body holds on to salt and water. This increases the amount of blood in your bloodstream.
  • Your heart beats faster.
  • Your heart gets bigger.

Your body tries hard to make up for heart failure. But at some point, it won't be able to keep up. The heart gets worn out. Then fluid will start to build up in the body. This fluid buildup is called congestion. This extra fluid shows up on the scale when you weigh yourself.

It's this congestion that can lead to other symptoms of heart failure. These include shortness of breath, tiredness, and swelling in your belly and legs. For many people, if their heart failure gets worse, their symptoms get worse too.

Your doctor will tell you how to manage ups and downs in your weight caused by fluid buildup. For example, if you have a slight weight increase, your doctor may want you to take an extra water pill (diuretic) or limit salt in your food.

Test Your Knowledge

Sudden weight gain may be the first sign that your heart failure is getting worse.


Fluid buildup, or congestion, can lead to other symptoms of heart failure.


Checking your weight helps you manage your heart failure. It helps you know when to call your doctor. Tracking your weight also helps your doctor know if your treatment for heart failure is working.

Test Your Knowledge

Checking your weight helps you manage your heart failure.


It's easy to keep track of your weight if you check it every day. Here are some tips:

  • Weigh yourself at the same time each day. Use the same scale on a hard, flat surface. The best time is in the morning after you go to the bathroom and before you eat or drink anything.
  • Wear the same thing each time you weigh yourself, or always wear nothing. Don't wear shoes.
  • Keep a calendar by the scale. Write your weight on it each day. Take your calendar with you when you see your doctor.

Take notes

Keep a few notes on your calendar about how you feel each day. Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Is it harder to catch your breath?
  • Are you more tired?
  • Are your feet and ankles swollen?
  • Do your legs or belly seem puffy?

When to call your doctor

If you suddenly gain weight, call your doctor. Your doctor may tell you how much weight to watch out for. But in general, call your doctor if you gain 3 lb (1.4 kg) or more in 2 to 3 days. If you are gaining weight slowly, tell your doctor on your next visit.

Tell your doctor if you are having to prop yourself up at night to breathe, or if you wake up in the night feeling out of breath.

Test Your Knowledge

If you suddenly gain weight, it's okay to wait and see what happens.


You should weigh yourself every day and at the same time each day.


Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start checking your weight.

Talk to your doctor

If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to write notes in the margins where you have questions.

Many hospitals and insurers have disease management programs to help people learn more about their heart failure.

If you would like more information on heart failure, the following resource is available:


American Heart Association (AHA)
7272 Greenville Avenue
Dallas, TX 75231
Phone: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721)
Web Address:

Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your nearest local or state AHA group. The AHA provides brochures and information about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and provide information and support.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
Phone: (301) 592-8573
Fax: (240) 629-3246
TDD: (240) 629-3255
Email: [email protected]
Web Address:

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing and treating:

National Institutes of Health Senior Health
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: 1-800-222-2225 Aging Information Center
TDD: 1-800-222-4225
Email: [email protected]
Web Address:

This website for older adults offers aging-related health information. The website's senior-friendly features include large print, simple navigation, and short, easy-to-read segments of information. A visitor to this website can click special buttons to hear the text aloud, make the text larger, or turn on higher contrast for easier viewing.

The site was developed by the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIHSeniorHealth features up-to-date health information from NIH. Also, the American Geriatrics Society provides independent review of some of the material found on this website.

You can find more information about heart failure here:

Click here to view an Actionset.Heart Failure: Watching Your Fluids
Click here to view an Actionset.Heart Failure: Activity and Exercise
Click here to view an Actionset.Healthy Eating: Eating Less Sodium

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ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical ReviewerStephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Last RevisedApril 26, 2012

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