Backyard barbecues, beach walks, and long days by the pool may be at the forefront of your mind this summer, but where does hydration rank on your priority list?
While these summer activities are fun, they can become dangerous if you don’t drink water throughout your day.
“Hydration is important at any time, but especially in these hot summer months, and that’s because of volume loss from sweat,” said Nadia Nasser, a physician at Family Care Center in Mooresville.
When it’s hot outside, your body starts sweating as a way to cool down. To stay hydrated this summer, you need to make sure you’re taking in as much fluid as you’re losing.
Importance of water
Since your body is about 60% water, you obviously can’t live without it – it keeps your body functioning properly.
According to Nasser, there are several benefits of drinking water, such as:
- Carrying oxygen to your cells
- It allows the kidneys to expel the bacteria through the bladder
- Aiding digestion
- Maintaining homeostasis of your vital organs and electrolyte balance
- Body temperature regulation
- Lubricating your joints
Water is essential for almost all of your bodily functions. If you don’t drink enough water and replace lost fluids, you can become dehydrated.
Dangers of dehydration
According to Nasser, there are many ways to become dehydrated. For example, dehydration can occur from vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, medications such as diuretics, intestinal obstruction, burns, or sweating.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration vary, but the most common include thirst, fatigue, muscle cramps, and lightheadedness upon standing up. According to Nasser, more severe signs of dehydration can include abdominal pain, chest pain, changes in mental status such as confusion, and low urine output or volume.
Dehydration can be serious and even life-threatening. It can put you at risk for heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
One of the more severe complications, dehydration can lead to hypovolemic shock. Hypovolemia occurs when your body loses fluid, such as blood or water.
“As the degree of hypovolemia becomes more severe, it will lead to reduced perfusion (passage of fluid) to vital organs, leading to hypovolemic shock, electrolyte disturbances, acute kidney injury, seizures or coma,” she said.
Many of us drink water when we feel thirsty. However, thirst should not be a guide to your body’s water needs.
“As we age, we tend to lose the sensation of being thirsty, which is common in the older population. This loss of thirst sensation can cause volume depletion problems, causing dehydration and electrolyte abnormalities,” Nasser said.
To stay healthy and hydrated, you may need to do more than just quench your thirst.
According to Nasser, healthy people should drink 4-6 glasses of water a day. However, water intake is individual.
“The amount of water intake changes if you have co-morbidities such as heart failure, thyroid or kidney problems. You have to talk to your doctor about what amount works for you,” Nasser said.
Even healthy people’s water intake can change if they sweat profusely. According to Nasser, if you’re sweating more than usual, you should drink 2-3 glasses every hour to avoid dehydration.
Your overall, total water intake should come from a variety of drinks and foods. Broth soups, juices and foods with a high water content – such as salads, celery, tomatoes and melons – can also help with hydration.
“In addition to water, you can drink carbonated water, milk, electrolyte replacement drinks, teas (black, green or chamomile tea), hot or iced coffee, sports drinks such as Gatorade, fruit or vegetable juice (watch the sugar content) and diet soda, in moderation,” she said.
To stay hydrated, Nasser recommends carrying a 1 liter water bottle to take with you to work, school, the gym or outdoor activities. You should also drink water during meals and at social events.
Nasser practices at Family Care Center of Mooresville, located at 653 Bluefield Road on the second floor of the Iredell Mooresville facility. To make an appointment with Dr. Nadia Nasser, please call 704-360-6480.