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Healthy Hydration

Monday, July 11, 2016

The hot weather is here and many folks wonder if they are getting enough to drink. This is important because according to Dr. Jack Guralnik of the National Institute on Aging, “Water is involved in all body processes…you the need the proper amount for all those processes to work correctly.” For the most part, healthy bodies are very good at regulating water. We sweat, urinate, defecate and lose water; then ingest water, juice, eat veggies and fruit to take in water. Our bodies signal thirst and we get a glass of water. This balance, however, can get upset when the temperatures soar into the high 80s and 90s.

Even the healthiest people can become dehydrated on hot days, especially if they are exercising. But dehydration is more of a problem in the elderly, who have a decreased sensitivity to thirst and very young children who cannot communicate they are thirsty. In addition, people who perspire heavily, overweight people, and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or cystic fibrosis may need to drink more water to stay properly hydrated. Furthermore, some folks take medications that act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid. “Dehydration is very dangerous. It can lead to an emergency visit and it can do significant damage to your body if left untreated,” says Dr. Sandra Schneider with the American College of Emergency Physicians. “But dehydration is also easily preventable, especially if the cause is excessive heat.” Dehydration can lead to problems ranging from fatigue or headache to a life threatening condition such as heat stroke. The best way to keep all systems running smoothly is education and prevention. Knowing the warning signs and preventive measures are the first lines of defense against dehydration.

Warning Signs of Dehydration

  • Thirst

  • Flushed skin

  • Increased body temperature

  • Faster breathing and pulse rate

  • Weakness and fatigue

  • Dry or sticky mouth

  • Loss of appetite

  • Low blood pressure

  • Inability to produce tears

  • Low or no urine output for 8 hours or if urine is concentrated and appears dark yellow

  • Sunken eyes

  • Dizziness or light headedness

  • Dry cough

Thirst

Flushed skin

Increased body temperature

Faster breathing and pulse rate

Weakness and fatigue

Dry or sticky mouth

Loss of appetite

Low blood pressure

Inability to produce tears

Low or no urine output for 8 hours or if urine is concentrated and appears dark yellow

Sunken eyes

Dizziness or light headedness

Dry cough

Preventive Measures

  • Pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you are well hydrated. If it is dark, drink more fluids. (Note: certain vitamins and medications can color your urine.)

  • Drink more on hot days even if you are not exercising.

  • Stay out of excessive heat if possible; wear light clothing and a hat when outdoors.

  • Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages as they can worsen dehydration.

  • Get in the water bottle habit. Take one for every member of the family wherever you go.

  • Water is the best beverage for hydration. It is all you need for low or moderate activity such as walking for an hour or less.

  • Save sports drinks for longer, intense exercise or if you plan on being in the heat for more than a few hours. (Note: Sports drinks replace fluid and chemicals such as sodium and potassium. They can also contain large amounts of sugar.)

  • Avoid fruit juices and soda as they can be hard on your stomach if dehydrated.

  • Drink water before and during exercise. After exercise, replenish your system with a healthy snack like orange slices, bananas, or a handful of unsalted nuts. (Note: According to the American Heart Association’s Dr. Batson, “Drinking water before (exercise) is much more important. Otherwise, you’re playing catch-up and your heart is straining.”)

  • Watch the weather - know when it is going to be hot.

  • If you travel, your body may react differently to high elevations or temperatures that are significantly hotter than NY temps.

  • Pay close attention to the elderly, young children, and those with chronic diseases during hot spells. Remind them to drink more on those days.

Pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you are well hydrated. If it is dark, drink more fluids. (Note: certain vitamins and medications can color your urine.)

Drink more on hot days even if you are not exercising.

Stay out of excessive heat if possible; wear light clothing and a hat when outdoors.

Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages as they can worsen dehydration.

Get in the water bottle habit. Take one for every member of the family wherever you go.

Water is the best beverage for hydration. It is all you need for low or moderate activity such as walking for an hour or less.

Save sports drinks for longer, intense exercise or if you plan on being in the heat for more than a few hours. (Note: Sports drinks replace fluid and chemicals such as sodium and potassium. They can also contain large amounts of sugar.)

Avoid fruit juices and soda as they can be hard on your stomach if dehydrated.

Drink water before and during exercise. After exercise, replenish your system with a healthy snack like orange slices, bananas, or a handful of unsalted nuts. (Note: According to the American Heart Association’s Dr. Batson, “Drinking water before (exercise) is much more important. Otherwise, you’re playing catch-up and your heart is straining.”)

Watch the weather - know when it is going to be hot.

If you travel, your body may react differently to high elevations or temperatures that are significantly hotter than NY temps.

Pay close attention to the elderly, young children, and those with chronic diseases during hot spells. Remind them to drink more on those days.

For more information on proper hydration, check out these websites:

Cleveland Clinic at http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_avoiding_dehydration

American Heart Association at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Staying-Hydrated---Staying-Healthy_UCM_441180_Article.jsp#.V30lIRzD-1s

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at https://www.eatright.org/fitness/sports-and-performance/hydrate-right

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.

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