Hydration: why is it important?
The average adult human body is 50-65 per cent water and every cell, tissue and organ in your body require water in order to function at its best. Water is used to maintain the body’s temperature, remove waste and keep joints loose and mobile; so, in essence, water is pretty essential to our everyday lives!
The vast majority of people do not consume enough water daily, however, which means the water we lose through sweating, going to the toilet and even breathing, is not being replaced; this is what leads to dehydration.
Dehydration can range from a mild thirst, to more serious conditions, such as dizziness and headaches. Some symptoms of dehydration are: dry mouth, dark urine, sleepiness/lack of energy, confusion, dizziness, headaches and extreme thirst.
If you feel you may be getting dehydrated, it is important not to wait until symptoms appear – try to keep well hydrated throughout the day, especially if it’s hot. If you feel the symptoms of dehydration coming on, take action and drink plenty water to boost your hydration levels and stay healthy and active.
Dehydration is a sign that your body, organs, cells and tissues need more water to function properly. When the weather is hot, we lose more water via sweating; so, it’s very important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids, particularly during the summer months. Exercise can also lead to dehydration, as we sweat more when exercising and lose electrolytes used to keep the body functioning. As we get older, we may also be at a higher risk of dehydration, as the brain may not be able to sense dehydration signs as easily. Certain medical conditions, such as kidney stones and infections, can also increase our risk of dehydration, as can being pregnant and having a fever. Drinking little amounts, but often, is a simple way to decrease the risk of dehyration.
Current recommended daily water limits vary, but many people aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, which is a reasonable goal for most people. As with everything, however, different people need different amounts of water and an athlete exercising in the heat will need far more water to stay hydrated than say an inactive person in the winter. Most people can stay well hydrated by simply drinking when they are thirsty, but others, such as elite athletes, may need to drink more to keep up with the water they are losing through exercise on a daily basis. Checking your urine can be a good indicator of hydration levels and if your urine is colourless or light yellow, you know that your body is well hydrated. If your urine is dark yellow or amber coloured however, it may be time to drink a bit more water, as this can be a sign of dehydration.
Drinking water throughout the day may be something that can slip your mind, particularly if you are busy. Here are a few handy tips for keeping well hydrated throughout the day.
- Keep a bottle of water with you throughout the day, which can be easily refilled if necessary. Purchasing water constantly can be expensive, as well as create plastic bottle waste; so, invest in a reusable bottle and fill from the tap.
- If you aren’t a fan of plain old tap water, try spicing it up with some fruits, such as lemon or strawberries, to give a bit of flavour.
- Always drink water before, during and after exercise.
- Feeling hungry? Drink water. Thirst can often be confused with hunger; so, drinking plenty water can also be beneficial for those looking to lose a little weight.
Dr Rosmond Adams, MD is a medical doctor and a public health specialist with training in bioethics and ethical issues in medicine, the life sciences and research. He is a lecturer of medical ethics.
He is the head of Health Information, Communicable Disease and Emergency Response at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). He is also a member of the World Health Organization Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs.
(The views expressed here are not written on behalf of CARPHA nor the WHO).
You may contact him at [email protected]