Staying Hydrated Protects Your Heart
Filed under: Hydration
“Drink water! Drink more water!” You’ve heard this advice a few hundred times before, right? But you probably think of hydration in terms of preventing heat stroke, controlling your appetite, or promoting clear skin. All of these things are true, but did you know that adequate hydration is also essential to protect your heart?
When you’re dehydrated, your heart has to work much harder to do its job. Your overall blood volume decreases (because it is mostly composed of water in the first place) and your heart over-compensates by beating harder and faster. This is why dizziness and weakness are sometimes signs of dehydration. Giving your heart a workout during exercise is a good idea; over-working it 24-7 due to chronic dehydration is a very bad idea. Over time this constant strain can damage your heart.
So, how much water do you need?
You’ve probably heard the old rule, that you should drink eight glasses of water each day. That’s a good starting point, but that number is really just an average. Your hydration needs depend on a variety of factors, such as your body size, the weather, your exercise habits, and even the clothing you wear.
Some people perspire more than others, both during exercise and while sitting still. Those people need to replace the lost fluids, and therefore need to drink more water than the average person. Those who suffer certain chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, or cystic fibrosis must take extra caution toward hydration. And, if you take any medications that act as diuretics, you need to replace those lost fluids regularly.
If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. So don’t rely on thirst as a reliable indicator! Instead, monitor your urine; clear to light yellow is good, while dark yellow means you’re short on fluids.
What is the best source of fluids?
Drinks that contain added sugar tend to be bad for you, and those with caffeine can actually act as a diuretic and remove fluids from your body. Fruits and vegetables will supply some of the water you need, but you should mostly rely on actual H20. You can certainly flavor it with a splash of fruit juice, make a fruit infusion, or add a sugar-free flavored sweetener if you wish. But however you drink it, water should be your main source of fluids.