Water Pills

People with CHF can hold onto extra water in places like their legs, their lungs, and even their blood (which is normally 50% water, like a mixed drink). Water pills (or diuretics) make you pee that water out.

What It Is
How It Happens
What To Do About It

Water collects in the bodies of people with CHF. Water pills help you get rid of that water by peeing it out.

Almost right away --

  • CHF patients breathe better
  • Leg swelling goes away
  • They find new energy, and
  • Their risk of pneumonia goes way, way down.
How Water Pills do it

Human bodies are filled with water. There’s water in our stomachs that helps us dissolve and mix together the food we eat. There’s water in our joints that helps make our bones slide on each other (instead of grinding against each other). Water coats our lungs. There’s even water in our blood (in fact our blood is about 48% water and about 48% the red blood cells that give blood it’s red color - kind of like the way delicious red powder gives Cherry Kool Aid its red color, along with other important stuff like white blood cells that fight infection, oxygen that we use for energy, and nutrients).

But people with CHF have a problem with water -Their bodies collect too much of it.

  • Those swollen legs - extra water. Water that stretches skin, and then has little meanies in it that like to eat the skin from the inside out - making “swelling sores,” aka venous stasis ulcers.
  • Trouble breathing - too much water in the lungs. Not enough to drown you, but enough to make it hard to breath. And, more dangerous, enough to attract pneumonia germs - Pneumonia germs that love to move into extra lung water, make homes for themselves, make lots of pneumonia germ babies, and make a person really really sick.


  • CHF sleep problems: The Belly-Lung Connection. One of the places people with congestive heart failure collect water is in their bellies.  A lot of people think it doesn’t look great - How many of us want a pot belly? But most of the time “ascites” isn’t a problem in itself - Except when you lie down! Then it can be a big problem, because that water flattens out with your body and spreads into the lungs - And people with water in their lungs have trouble breathing.  (On sign of this is that people with Belly-Lung water try to keep that water out of their lungs by sitting up when they sleep, either by using a bunch of pillows or sleeping in a chair, watching TV - Except that’s a bad idea too - Because the water follows gravity in another direction, and pools in the lower legs all night, swelling legs and sometimes making swelling sores (venous stasis ulcers). 


  • High blood pressure and congestive heart failure - A health person has about a gallon of blood in their blood vessels. But a person with advanced heart failure can be carrying around as much as an extra quart of water in their blood. Except their blood vessels are still sized to carry, only a gallon of water - not 1 gallon + 1 quart! 


That means that blood is really jammed in there. And that means the heart is beating against that jammed in there blood - which is quite a strain.

So here’s the thing. All that stuff is really unhealthy.

You have to do something about it.

You have to get rid of that water!

That’s what water pills do. They take the extra water out of -

  • Your legs
  • Your lungs
  • And your blood 
And send it Mail Express to be peed! 

So here’s what’s important to be remember about water pills: This is serious stuff. It’s not just about taking a big pee. It’s about

  • Saving your skin
  • Preventing pneumonia
  • Making it easier to breathe
  • And saving your heart.
  1. Obviously, take your water pills when your doctor tells you to.


  2. Don’t give up—Water pills can be no fun to take. Nobody likes having to run to the bathroom again and again and again and again. If you get discouraged, don’t every stop taking your water pills without talking to your doctor. Give your doc a call. Talk to him about your troubles. See if you can change when you’re taking your water pills, or maybe make a medication change. 


  3. If you have to pee real bad, DON’T RUN. A pee accident is no good. But a broken hip is much worse. Do your best to get to the toilet, but don’t ever, ever run. It only takes one fall to be a terrible mistake you can’t ever take back.

  4. Wear Depends, or another brand of absorbent liner. No one will ever know. And now you’ll be able to leave the house, and go do whatever you want, without worrying. 
  5. Take care of your skin. If your skin gets wet, don’t go into a panic. But, as soon as it’s convenient, wash your skin with soap and water. And dry it well. Also, if you rub some moisturizing lotion into your skin whenever you clean it, and at least twice a day, you’ll lower the chance that your skin will chafe or you’ll get a rash. 


  6. You can also use powder. But not baby powder. Corn powder can be a cheap choice, or talk to your doctor about which one.


  7. If you’re a caregiver for someone who is bedbound (can’t get out of bed) or has a lot of pee accidents, be sure to keep them clean and dry as much as possible. It’s like taking care of a child in a diaper—clean up messes immediately. The last thing you want is an infected wound, or even a bed sore.


What It Is

Water collects in the bodies of people with CHF. Water pills help you get rid of that water by peeing it out.

Almost right away --

  • CHF patients breathe better
  • Leg swelling goes away
  • They find new energy, and
  • Their risk of pneumonia goes way, way down.

How It Happens

How Water Pills do it

Human bodies are filled with water. There’s water in our stomachs that helps us dissolve and mix together the food we eat. There’s water in our joints that helps make our bones slide on each other (instead of grinding against each other). Water coats our lungs. There’s even water in our blood (in fact our blood is about 48% water and about 48% the red blood cells that give blood it’s red color - kind of like the way delicious red powder gives Cherry Kool Aid its red color, along with other important stuff like white blood cells that fight infection, oxygen that we use for energy, and nutrients).

But people with CHF have a problem with water -Their bodies collect too much of it.

  • Those swollen legs - extra water. Water that stretches skin, and then has little meanies in it that like to eat the skin from the inside out - making “swelling sores,” aka venous stasis ulcers.
  • Trouble breathing - too much water in the lungs. Not enough to drown you, but enough to make it hard to breath. And, more dangerous, enough to attract pneumonia germs - Pneumonia germs that love to move into extra lung water, make homes for themselves, make lots of pneumonia germ babies, and make a person really really sick.


  • CHF sleep problems: The Belly-Lung Connection. One of the places people with congestive heart failure collect water is in their bellies.  A lot of people think it doesn’t look great - How many of us want a pot belly? But most of the time “ascites” isn’t a problem in itself - Except when you lie down! Then it can be a big problem, because that water flattens out with your body and spreads into the lungs - And people with water in their lungs have trouble breathing.  (On sign of this is that people with Belly-Lung water try to keep that water out of their lungs by sitting up when they sleep, either by using a bunch of pillows or sleeping in a chair, watching TV - Except that’s a bad idea too - Because the water follows gravity in another direction, and pools in the lower legs all night, swelling legs and sometimes making swelling sores (venous stasis ulcers). 


  • High blood pressure and congestive heart failure - A health person has about a gallon of blood in their blood vessels. But a person with advanced heart failure can be carrying around as much as an extra quart of water in their blood. Except their blood vessels are still sized to carry, only a gallon of water - not 1 gallon + 1 quart! 


That means that blood is really jammed in there. And that means the heart is beating against that jammed in there blood - which is quite a strain.

So here’s the thing. All that stuff is really unhealthy.

You have to do something about it.

You have to get rid of that water!

That’s what water pills do. They take the extra water out of -

  • Your legs
  • Your lungs
  • And your blood 
And send it Mail Express to be peed! 

So here’s what’s important to be remember about water pills: This is serious stuff. It’s not just about taking a big pee. It’s about

  • Saving your skin
  • Preventing pneumonia
  • Making it easier to breathe
  • And saving your heart.

What To Do About It

  1. Obviously, take your water pills when your doctor tells you to.


  2. Don’t give up—Water pills can be no fun to take. Nobody likes having to run to the bathroom again and again and again and again. If you get discouraged, don’t every stop taking your water pills without talking to your doctor. Give your doc a call. Talk to him about your troubles. See if you can change when you’re taking your water pills, or maybe make a medication change. 


  3. If you have to pee real bad, DON’T RUN. A pee accident is no good. But a broken hip is much worse. Do your best to get to the toilet, but don’t ever, ever run. It only takes one fall to be a terrible mistake you can’t ever take back.

  4. Wear Depends, or another brand of absorbent liner. No one will ever know. And now you’ll be able to leave the house, and go do whatever you want, without worrying. 
  5. Take care of your skin. If your skin gets wet, don’t go into a panic. But, as soon as it’s convenient, wash your skin with soap and water. And dry it well. Also, if you rub some moisturizing lotion into your skin whenever you clean it, and at least twice a day, you’ll lower the chance that your skin will chafe or you’ll get a rash. 


  6. You can also use powder. But not baby powder. Corn powder can be a cheap choice, or talk to your doctor about which one.


  7. If you’re a caregiver for someone who is bedbound (can’t get out of bed) or has a lot of pee accidents, be sure to keep them clean and dry as much as possible. It’s like taking care of a child in a diaper—clean up messes immediately. The last thing you want is an infected wound, or even a bed sore.


Related Entries

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(ejection fraction = EF)
When people have CHF, their hearts do a lousy job of beating and pumping blood around the body.

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