Adjusting your diet: Maintaining a healthy weight

Heart failure is often associated with rapid changes in weight. These can indicate changes in your condition and so need to be monitored carefully.

Losing weight

Losing a lot of weight unintentionally over a short space of time can be serious. It could mean that you are not consuming enough calories or that your heart failure or inactivity are causing muscle loss. It could also indicate that your diuretic dose is too high. Unexpected weight loss should always be reported to your nurse or doctor. Muscle loss may go unnoticed if you are also retaining fluid as your weight may remain fairly stable.

If you are losing weight; however, and are finding it difficult to gain weight, your doctor or nurse may advise you to contact a dietician who may recommend trying a high-calorie, high-protein diet. It may also help to try eating smaller and more frequent meals.

If you are losing weight, however, and are finding it difficult to gain weight, your doctor/dietician may recommend that you try a high calorie, high protein diet. It may also help to try eating smaller and more frequent meals.

Gaining weight

Sudden weight gain may be due to fluid retention or overeating.

Weight gain caused by fluid retention may increase the workload on your heart as it has to pump harder to move the excess fluid in the blood around your body. If you are retaining fluid, you will usually gain weight rapidly. You should discuss this with your doctor or nurse as it can make your symptoms worse.

Weight gain by overeating puts extra strain on your heart as it has an increased area of body tissue to supply oxygen to. This means that it has to work harder to allow you to perform your daily activities. If you are consuming too many calories, you will usually gain weight more slowly. However, this type of weight gain can also cause an increase in your symptoms and make your condition worse. You should discuss your diet with your nurse or dietician to learn how to follow a heart-healthy diet, and look at ways you can lose weight if this is necessary.

Monitoring your weight

Keeping track of your weight by weighing yourself daily (preferably at the same time of day (for example, in the morning after going to the toilet, wearing just your night clothes), can inform your doctor of any noticeable changes in your weight. An adjustment of your diuretic dose may be necessary.

Click here to view, download or print a chart you can use to track your weight.

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ESC Guidelines for Heart Failure

What patients need to know

This guide for patients from the European Society of Cardiology aims to provide an overview of the latest evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure.

In particular, it should help patients to understand the:

  • main types of heart failure
  • medicines used to treat heart failure
  • devices that may be appropriate
  • importance of rehabilitation
  • management by a multidisciplinary team
  • importance of self-care in managing your own condition

Learn more


A series of 9 simple, captivating animations explaining heart failure and its treatment.

These narrated animations explain how a healthy heart works, what happens to it in heart failure and how various treatments work to improve your health.


In this section you can watch, listen or read interviews with other people with heart failure and their caregivers.


and share your own views and experiences with other patients, families and caregivers. is a European Society of Cardiology website

The website was developed under the direction of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The ESC is a world leader in the discovery and dissemination of best practices in cardiovascular medicine. Our members and decision-makers are healthcare professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to represent professionals in the field of cardiology in Europe and beyond.

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