Water, otherwise known as H2O, is vital to our overall health, including our heart health. In fact, it comprises 60 per cent of our body weight and is responsible for getting rid of waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements. Water also helps to protect sensitive tissues and cushions joints, but also plays an important role in maintaining good heart health. Staying hydrated allows the heart to do its job – pumping 2,000 gallons of blood a day!
How much water should you be drinking?
It has been said time and time again that drinking eight ounces of water a day is essential to good health. While that may be true, not everyone needs to drink eight ounces of water a day – it all depends on lifestyle. For example, people who are very active will need to hydrate more often than those who are sedentary for most of the day. And depending on where you live, climate will play a role in the amount water you need per day. Living in a hot and humid climate will require you to consume more water because you will sweat more, which results in loss of water.
An individual’s overall health can also dictate how much water he/she needs to stay hydrated. When we are sick with the flu or fever, we may suffer from vomiting or diarrhea, therefore, drinking plenty of fluids is necessary to replenish the water lost during illness. Pregnant or nursing women will need additional fluids to stay hydrated – medical experts recommend that pregnant women drink about 10 cups (2.4 litres) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume about 13 cups (3.1 litres) of fluids a day.
What is dehydration?
According to Medical News Today, dehydration occurs when more water and fluids leave the body than enter it. Symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, headaches and constipation. Typically, athletes, seniors and those living at higher altitudes will experience dehydration. Although it seems simple to address dehydration by drinking more water, in some cases, dehydration requires medical attention.
How to detect dehydration?
Dark urine is an easy giveaway that you may be dehydrated. The clearer the urine, the more hydrated you are. The basic causes of dehydration are not taking in enough water, losing too much water, or a combination of both. Sometimes, it is not possible to consume enough fluids because we are too busy, lack the facilities or strength to drink, or are in an area without potable water (while hiking or camping, for example). Additional causes of dehydration include:
Diarrhea – the most common cause of dehydration and related deaths. The large intestine absorbs water from food matter, and diarrhea prevents this from happening. The body excretes too much water, leading to dehydration.
Vomiting – leads to a loss of fluids and makes it difficult to replace water by drinking it.
Sweating – the body’s cooling mechanism releases a significant amount of water. Hot and humid weather and vigorous physical activity can further increase fluid loss from sweating. Similarly, a fever
can cause an increase in sweating and may dehydrate the patient, especially if there is also diarrhea and vomiting.
Diabetes – high blood sugar levels cause increased urination and fluid loss. Tips for handling summer heat for people with diabetes.
Frequent urination – usually caused by uncontrolled diabetes, but also can be due to alcohol and medications such as diuretics, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and antipsychotics.
Burns – blood vessels can become damaged, causing fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues.
H2O’s Role In Keeping You and Your Heart Healthy
Research has shown that dehydration causes strain on your heart. The amount of blood circulating through your body, or blood volume, decreases when you are dehydrated. To compensate, your heart beats faster, increasing your heart rate and causing you to feel palpitations. Your blood also retains more sodium, making it tougher for it to circulate through your body. Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently.
For those not in the habit of drinking plenty of H20 during the day will want to find ways to increase their intake. For some, drinking water is simply tasteless and boring. If this is the case, there are many ways to flavour up your drinking water to make it more palatable. Add drink crystals (low sugar to sugar free formulas are recommended), squeeze lemon into your water, or add ice and some fruit juice. Stay hydrated – your heart will thank you!