1. Biology of water and the human body
Our bodies are made up of about two-thirds (60%) water, and we become dehydrated when that total level drops by only a few percent. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work properly. Water gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements, helps keep your temperature regulated, and lubricates and cushions your joints. Water is also critical for your heart health. Your heart is constantly working, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood a day. By staying hydrated you are helping your heart do its job.
Ultimately, about 80% of people’s total liquid intake comes from drinking water and beverages and 20% comes from food. This may come as a surprise to many but foods high in water content can also fight off dehydration. Factor in these examplese of celery, cucumbers, and watermelon into your daily diet.
2. How much water do you need?
Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water. Thirst isn’t the best indicator that you need more fluids – in fact, if you get thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated. Thirst can also be confused with hunger – drink water if you’re feeling hungry. The color of your urine is often the easiest indicator of hydration. Pale and clear (lemonade-colored) urine means you’re well hydrated. If your urine is dark, drink more fluids. We highly recommend that you consult a health professional if your urine remains dark, cloudy or foul smelling even after you have increased your water consumption.
To prevent dehydration and to make sure your body has the fluids it needs, we recommend that you get in the habit of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, a glass of water with each meal and a few more glasses of water throughout the day. Also drink proactively, especially before, during and after exercise, on long airplane flights and in hot weather. A guideline for adequate daily fluid intake for the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need is:
- For women: About 11 cups (2.7 liters) total daily fluid intake (includes all beverages and water-containing foods).
- For men: About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) total daily fluid intake (includes all beverages and water-containing foods).
As with all recommendations, we urge our patients to take into consideration their level of physical exertion, exposure to the sun or high heat, outdoor activities, overall health, during pregnancy or breastfeeding etc.
3. But I do not like water! What can I do instead?
Water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated, because it’s calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available. Drinking the commonly recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is reasonable considering about 25 percent of our daily fluid intake comes from food and the rest from drinks. In addition to water, beverages such as milk, juice and herbal teas are composed mostly of water. The solid foods you eat, especially fruits and vegetables, can also provide a significant amount of water. Cucumbers are 96% water and watermelons are 92% water. However, many processed foods, such as chips and crackers, are nearly devoid of moisture and contain a lot of salt. The excess salt thickens your blood and makes it harder for your blood to circulate through your body. To get rid of the excess salt, the body requires more liquid.
Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and soda, can contribute to your daily water intake, but the caffeine acts as a diuretic and can cause you to lose more fluids, and excess sugar can inhibit the body from absorbing water. Alcoholic drinks are also a diuretic. When drinking any of these options, be sure to drink plenty of water to counter the effects.
Sports drinks tend to be high in added sugars and calories and should be used only when you’re exercising intensely for more than an hour. These drinks help replace electrolytes lost through perspiration and sugar needed for energy during longer bouts of exercise.
Energy drinks are different from sports drinks. Energy drinks generally aren’t formulated to replace electrolytes. Energy drinks usually contain large amounts of caffeine or other stimulants, sugar, and other additives.
4. Dehydration facts
Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid through sweating, illness, fever or urination than you consume in food and water. Dehydration can negatively affect your organs and bodily functions, including your heart and cardiovascular system. When you are dehydrated your blood volume, or the amount of blood circulating through your body, decreases. To compensate, your heart beats faster, increasing your heart rate and your blood pressure. Also, when you are dehydrated, your blood retains more sodium, thickening your blood and making it harder for your blood to circulate through your body. Keeping your body hydrated helps your heart pump blood more easily and allows oxygen to reach your muscles, which helps the muscles work efficiently.
Those most at risk for dehydration are the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, children and athletes. Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or heat stroke.
Signs of mild to moderate dehydration are thirst, a dry or sticky mouth, not urinating much, dark yellow urine, headache, or muscle cramps.
Signs of severe dehydration are not urinating, or very dark yellow or amber-colored urine, dry, shriveled skin, sunken eyes, irritability or confusion, dizziness or lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat and breathing, listlessness or unconsciousness, or delirium. Should you or someone you know experience any of these symptoms, please contact your nearest hospital immediately for the necessary care.
5. The German Heart Centre way
Our team of doctors and nurses are all well experienced healthcare professionals with many years of hands-on patient care. This includes consultation of general health concerns and the impact it has on your body. At our clinic the patient comes first – why not get in touch to discuss any questions you may have on this subject?
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information on the topic.