DON’T suffer from these long-term consequences
Many experts expect this August will be one of the hottest on record, with unusually high temperatures and thick humidity upon most of the country.
In that kind of sweltering weather, dehydration is a REAL THREAT, even when you’re doing simple tasks—like running a few errands or taking a stroll.
Of course, skimping on fluid intake and becoming dehydrated at ANY time of year can lead to “acute” health problems, such as leg cramps, headaches, urinary tract infections, constipation, kidney stones, and heat exhaustion or heat stroke. (Learn more about those final two threats on page 1.)
But dehydration also has LONG-TERM consequences.
In fact, research shows it increases your risk of suffering three MAJOR health problems…
Dehydration hijacks your heart
The human body is 75 percent water. We use it to carry nutrients to cells, lubricate joints, protect organs and tissues, get rid of waste, and more.
So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that when we don’t take in enough water and become dehydrated… it impacts our long-term health, including our heart.
In a recent study, researchers with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute looked at the effect of hydration on heart health over a 25-year period.1
To start, they gathered data on more than 15,000 adults ages 45 to 66. They paid particular attention to the participants’ serum sodium levels, which is an indicator of “hydration status.” (The higher the serum sodium level, the lower the hydration level.)
Experts consider a “normal” range of serum sodium to fall between 135 and 146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).
It turns out, adults at middle age with serum sodium levels beginning around 143 mEq/L—which is on the higher end of the range, but still well within “normal levels”—had a 39 percent higher risk of heart failure in comparison to those with lower levels and better hydration.
Plus, the researchers found that hydration plays an even more important role in heart health as you age…
In fact, those with serum sodium levels between 142.5 and 143 mEq/L at middle age had a 62 percent higher risk of developing left ventricular hypertrophy (enlargement and thickening of the heart) by age 70 to 90.
Moreover, those with serum sodium levels starting at 143 mEq/L had a staggering 102 percent increase in left ventricular hypertrophy risk and a 54 percent jump in heart failure risk between the ages 70 and 90.
Some experts think these major outcomes occur because dehydration thickens blood and slows its movement through the body and to the heart. And over time, this strained circulation can spell serious trouble for the heart.
But, improving your hydration status can help eliminate these serious heart health risks.
Important for immune health
Now, you may not realize it, but your hydration level strongly impacts your lymphatic system, a one-way drainage system that traps and filters harmful toxins, waste, debris, abnormal cells, and pathogens from tissues around the body.
Importantly, the lymphatic system relies on a clear fluid called “lymph” to collect these harmful substances and carry them to your lymph nodes, which act as filters.
And here’s the thing…
Lymph is almost entirely made up of water. (In fact, it’s 90 percent water!) So if you’re not properly hydrated, your body cannot effectively remove these harmful substances. And THAT puts you at higher risk of developing infections and even diseases like cancer.
That’s not all…
About five years ago, researchers with the National Institutes of Health discovered that the lymphatic system even drains toxins out of your BRAIN, which may help explain this next set of findings…2
Lack of fluids clouds cognition
Most people know that when they’re hungry, they can have trouble tackling a complex mental task, such as paying bills.
But did you ever consider the fact that your hydration status ALSO affects your brain and your cognition?
Well, it does… in a MAJOR way.
In fact, research suggests that being dehydrated by just 2 percent significantly impairs performance on tasks that require memory, attention, executive function, and psychomotor skills (such as driving a car, typing, or playing an instrument).3
Additionally, some research suggests that dehydration increases your risk of developing dementia. And in people who already have dementia, it can accelerate cognitive decline!4
Here again, the brain is mostly water, so it’s not surprising that hydration is key to optimal cognitive functioning.
Moreover, while seniors are most vulnerable to cognitive decline due to dehydration, they may be less likely to notice the signs. On top of that, your muscle mass and kidney function tend to decline as you age. Put it all together, and this lowers water reserves, making it harder for your body to send hormonal signals that tell you when you’re thirsty.
With that in mind, let’s discuss the subtle signs of dehydration…
Subtle signs of dehydration
Since the most obvious signs of dehydration—feeling thirsty—isn’t as strong as you get older, it’s vital that you remain on the lookout for these subtle signs:
1.) Persistent headaches. One of the first signs of dehydration is a headache. So, if you find yourself getting persistent headaches, it’s very possible you don’t drink enough water.5 (I’ll tell you how much you should drink daily in a moment.)
2.) Sluggish bowel function. If you don’t drink enough water, you can also experience hard stools, constipation, abdominal pain, and cramps.
3.) Dull skin. Dehydration also shows up as dry, ashy skin that’s less supple and elastic. A sign of severe dehydration is skin that remains “tented” after pinching.
4.) Fatigue. Lack of fluids can also impact your energy levels. So, the next time you’re feeling tired and foggy, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, try drinking a tall glass of water.
5.) Food cravings. Sometimes people mistake thirst for hunger and head to the snack cabinet between meals. When, in reality, they’re just dehydrated. And since dehydration can lead to a dip in blood sugar, you may find yourself craving sweets. But it’s a bad idea to reach for a soda or cookie when this happens, as research shows eating sweets actually “promotes” dehydration.6
6.) Bad breath and dry mouth. If you’re not getting enough water, your saliva production can slow up and lead to an overgrowth of bacteria. This can make your mouth feel super dry—and give you bad breath.
Of course, you want to work to prevent dehydration, so you don’t have to worry about these signs—subtle or otherwise. Here’s how…
The basic rules of hydration
You may think that following the age-old advice to drink eight glasses of water a day will be enough to keep you optimally hydrated.
But eight glasses may or may not be enough for you…
To know for sure, you first need to get your baseline hydration number by dividing your body weight in half. Start by drinking that many ounces of water each day. (So, a 150-pound woman needs 75 ounces of water daily, which is almost 9.5 glasses a day. And a 200-pound man needs 100 ounces daily, which is 12.5 glasses a day.)
Then, if you exercise regularly, you need to drink more. Specifically, for every 30 minutes of physical activity, you should add another eight ounces to your daily total.
Moreover, for every cup of coffee that you drink (or any other type of caffeinated beverage), your body requires yet another eight ounces of water to make up for it.
I realize that may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t take long to make a habit of it. Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning, before each meal, and right before bed. That alone will make a pretty big dent in your daily requirement.
You should also keep water with you at all times (whenever you’re able) and take a big sip every couple of minutes.
If you find yourself getting “bored” of plain old water, jazz it up with some organic, natural ingredients. A few slices of lemon or lime go a long way in adding flavor. You can also use crushed fruits, vegetables, or herbs—such as strawberries, cantaloupe, cucumber, mint, or basil.
Unsweetened, decaffeinated herbal tea is another good option to help your body rehydrate when you want to switch things up. I always enjoy some cold raspberry zinger tea at this time of year.
And of course, during these hot summer days, you should also make sure to increase your daily intake of berries and vegetables, such as cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, and tomatoes. These delicious, crunchy, juicy options will help improve your hydration levels. And, as an added bonus, they’re in season in many parts of the country!
By making these simple adjustments to your current routine, you’ll meet your daily water quota without even thinking about it. Plus, you’ll protect your heart, immune health, and cognition, to boot!
NEWS BRIEF: Can drinking WATER cause WEIGHT GAIN?!
SAFER ways to up your fluid intake
Drinking plenty of water and staying properly hydrated is essential to good health.
But if you’re not careful, it can also lead to WEIGHT GAIN.
In fact, in a study published earlier this year, researchers discovered a link between chemicals commonly found in public drinking water and weight gain… regardless of other dietary efforts to lose weight.
In other words, NO diet was good enough to combat the ill-effects of chemical-laden drinking water!
Specifically, participants with the highest concentration of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in their blood gained nearly 10 pounds MORE than those with lower levels after a one-year follow-up period. (PFOA is a type of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance [PFAS] that’s commonly detected in public drinking water.)
As one of the study authors stated: “Our study adds new evidence that being overweight isn’t just about a lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits—PFAS are increasingly suspected to be a contributing factor.”
To avoid PFOAs and the associated weight gain, try following these three simple tips when upping your water intake…
- NEVER drink out of a plastic bottle, even those labeled “BPA-free.”
- Only ever drink natural spring water bottled in glass. My favorite is 365 Italian sparking mineral water from Whole Foods.
- Filter your water to keep out as many chemicals and other toxins as you can. Get the best filter you can afford, whether it’s a filtration system for your entire home, one for your faucet, or a refillable water pitcher. Then, only ever drink out of glass or stainless-steel cups or bottles.
To a healthier you,
Fred Pescatore, M.D.