Stay Hydrated, Stay Healthy

New Year New You 2013
Stay Hydrated, Stay healthy
By Joan Enderle, American Heart Association

The human body is made up of about 10 to 12 gallons, so replenishing your body’s water supply is crucial for proper function and health.

Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles remove waste so that they can work efficiently. If you are well hydrated, your heart does not have to work as hard and helps your body regulate temperature. Adequate hydration can help you feel more energetic and help your skin look better.

Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.

Water is best
For most people, water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. There are no calories in water. Additional sources of water also include foods, such as fruits and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water.

Sports drinks with electrolytes may be useful for people doing high intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, though they tend to be high in calories. It may be healthier to drink water while you are exercising, and then when you are done, eat a healthy snack like orange slices, a banana or a small handful of unsalted nuts.

Other beverages such as sugary drinks, soda, coffee drinks and juices contain water but also may have a large number of calories, contributing to weight gain.

Young woman drinking water at workout, outdoorsHow much water do you need?
The amount of water a person needs depends on a number of factors: climatic conditions, clothing worn and exercise intensity and duration. A person who perspires heavily will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean you need to drink more to avoid over-taxing the heart or other organs. Some medications can act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid.
Thirst isn’t the best indicator of hydration status. If you get thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. The easiest thing to do is pay attention to the color of your urine. Pale and clear means you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark, drink more fluids.

A safe bet is to drink at least eight cups of water each day to make sure you are properly hydrated. The Dietary Reference Intakes from the Institute of Medicine recommends a total daily beverage intake of 13 cups for men and 9 cups for women.
If you want to know exactly how much fluid you need during exercise, experts recommends weighting yourself before and after exercise, to see how much you’ve lost through perspiration. A rule of thumb is every pound of sweat you lose, that’s a pint of water you’ll need to replenish.
Not sweating during vigorous physical activity can be a red flag that you’re dehydrated to the point of developing heat exhaustion.

Getting enough fluids during the winter is just as important as when temperatures are high. When you’re exposed to extreme temperatures – whether it’s very hot or very cold – your body uses more water to maintain is normal temperature. Also, in the winter you’re exposed to heated air, which evaporates water from your skin.


Heat Safety

The warm temperatures and damp air mean people are especially at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Heat stroke can occur very rapidly, actually,” said Jenna Bredahl, a registered nurse and quality manager at Jamestown Regional Medical Center. “People need to keep this in mind in the hot weather, and pay attention to some of the warning signs.”

To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, people should stay indoors in air conditioning as much as possible, drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol and caffeine and wear loose, light-weight clothing, Bredahl said. They shouldn’t exert themselves too much and if working outdoors, should pace themselves and take cool showers if needed.

And people living alone should make sure they have people to check on them, just in case. People with chronic or mental illnesses, the elderly and the very young are especially at risk, Bredahl said, but heat-related illnesses can happen to anyone.

People suspecting they have heat stroke — the most severe heat-related illness — should call 911, Bredahl said. In the meantime, they can be cooled with damp cloths, moved to a cooler place or given cool water to drink.

Symptoms include an absence of sweat, headache, irritability, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea and rapid, shallow breathing.

“Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness, but heat exhaustion (is) your body’s way of saying ‘you have to slow down, you could be heading to heat stroke,’” Bredahl said.

People suspecting they have heat exhaustion should head off heat stroke by going to a cool place, either indoors with air conditioning or in the shade, and drink plenty of water, or take a cool bath, Bredahl advised.

Staying aware of potential warning signs can help people avoid the problem altogether.

“It’s just amazing how fast it can happen,” Bredahl said.

An excerpt from The Jamestown Sun, article “It’s too darn hot: High temps bring risks” published 7/3/12.