Why is Hydration a Key to Good Health?

Hot enough for ya? It’s August, so we’re guessing that it is. It’s crucial to remember that the hotter it gets, the more important it is to monitor one key liquid asset for good health: hydration.

We’re Mostly Water

By weight, the human body is about 60{61271d8c6ac8952d2b8e8075a7a6af9d50bcb6e72a1066f56e1f6f2e011a6b27} water. That means for a 150-pound person, 90 pounds of your body is made up of water! Water is involved in every cellular process the body conducts, so when you’re not properly hydrated, every function is less efficient. The water we consume is an essential part of overall good health because proper hydration helps the body to regulate its temperature, metabolism, optimize blood pressure, lubricate joints, and also aids in digestion including eliminating waste from the body.

As temperatures soar, your body loses water through evaporation and sweat. In extreme heat and sunny conditions―you know, like every time you cut the grass, go to the beach, play tennis or golf outside in the hot summer weather—you can lose up to 1.5 liters of water per hour! If you don’t replace that water quickly, bad things happen, and they happen fast.

The human brain is composed of about 73{61271d8c6ac8952d2b8e8075a7a6af9d50bcb6e72a1066f56e1f6f2e011a6b27} water, so depriving it of proper hydration is akin to leaving a sponge out in the sun to dry.  Brain tissue shrinks when you become significantly dehydrated, often leading to a headache or feeling of lightheadedness. Just a 2{61271d8c6ac8952d2b8e8075a7a6af9d50bcb6e72a1066f56e1f6f2e011a6b27} drop in total body water weight can limit your ability to pay attention and cause short-term memory problems and even affect your vision.  To keep your mind at its best, make sure you drink plenty of water.

Dangers of Dehydration

As the water levels in your body drop, your temperature rises and blood volume may drop, which if not reversed quickly, can lead to serious consequences.  A 10{61271d8c6ac8952d2b8e8075a7a6af9d50bcb6e72a1066f56e1f6f2e011a6b27} or greater loss of water body weight is considered a medical emergency and if not addressed quickly, can lead to death. In warm or hot weather, the body cools itself through perspiration; as the sweat evaporates off skin, it helps lower body temperature. Heat stroke occurs when the body loses the ability to perspire and can’t regulate its temperature effectively, causing the body temperature to rise quickly and dangerously—to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and above.  The symptoms of this condition, known as hyperthermia, include nausea, dizziness, swelling of extremities and extreme fatigue.  

The very young and the very old are at increased risk for dehydration. Those who take medications or have health conditions including high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation are also especially at risk for dehydration.

What are the symptoms of dehydration?

Some symptoms of mild to medium dehydration include:

–          Dry mouth

–          Increased thirst

–          Fatigue/sleepy/tired feelings

–          Decreased urine output; darker color of urine

–          Headache and/or dizziness

–          Dry skin

–          Muscle cramps

The lesson? Take proactive steps to stay hydrated all summer. Bring a bottle of water along with you whenever you’re outside, sipping from it often even if you don’t yet feel thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, it’ll be more difficult to replenish the liquid you’ve lost.

How much water does the average person need?

Each individual is different, and it also depends on weather conditions, activity level, age, chronic illnesses, medications and lifestyle. In general, the Mayo Clinic recommends that men drink 3 liters of liquids per day and women consume about 2.2 liters of liquids per day. This is similar to―but a little higher than―the popular rule to “drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day,” which totals about 1.9 liters and is easy to remember. But drinking a little more water than you need is preferable to drinking a little less water than you need. When in doubt, enjoy a glass of refreshing water.

In our next blog, we’ll offer tips for how to stay hydrated.