How Proper Hydration Affects Heart Health
We all know that proper hydration is key to a healthy body. After all, our bodies are made up of 60% water and we can’t go more than a few days without the stuff. Proper hydration not only keeps our bodily functions regular, but it can also affect our mood. The effects of dehydration on mental and physical ability are significant. And this effect extends to the heart. When we are well hydrated, the heart can pump blood through the body more efficiently and reduce strain on our most important muscle.
Proper hydration is particularly important for those that have existing heart troubles or who have a higher risk of heart disease. Patients over the age of 50 should pay particular attention to their hydration to ensure their heart is not overworked.
So how much water, exactly, do you need?
Every individual is different, and as such, the amount of water they need each day can vary. Some recommend 64 ounces of water or other liquid daily. Remember that you also receive water from the food you eat. Conversely, while coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages can hydrate us, they are also diuretics, meaning that more water is flushed out of our bodies as well. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already considered dehydrated. Another way to gauge hydration is checking urine color: if urine is clear or hay colored, you are probably well hydrated.
It is also important to remember that the amount of hydration you need during the day will vary based on a number of factors including:
- Climactic conditions. Hotter days cause greater perspiration and more water loss. Low humidity climates also increase loss of water in our bodies. We can even lose water in cold, but low-humidity winter days.
- The amount of exercise you perform. While this is one of the more obvious reasons, because we sweat when we work out, oftentimes we do not realize how much water we have lost and don’t replenish fully.
- Travel, and especially flying, may cause you to dehydrate more quickly. It’s one of the reasons why on flights, especially longer ones, we often feel tired and less than active once we get off the plane.
- What we eat and drink can also make a big difference in hydration – foods high in sodium and sugar, as well as caffeinated drinks, can cause us to lose more water through additional urination.
Replenishing our Water Stores
Along with unflavored water, you should consider low-calorie electrolyte drinks such as coconut water and enhanced or infused waters. However, be careful of waters that contain artificial sweetener or sugar – like energy drinks and sports drinks. They may make you eat more and consequently gain weight, eliminating some of the benefit.
The Bottom Line
Water and proper hydration are critical to the normal function of both our brains and our bodies. The heart is no exception. Be sure to look out for the signs of dehydration and get enough each day to stay heart healthy.