Thursday, May 24, 2012

Staying Hydrated, Staying Well

It’s mid-May as I am writing this and for the first time in a long time, I looked at the 10 day forecast and saw 90’s as the predicted high temperature.  That can only mean one thing: Summer is right around the corner and the long timeframe of 90+ degree days week after week after week looms ahead.  Summer is a time where we spend a lot of time outdoors, and great memories will be made this summer for many, but it’s important that we also keep a very important thought in mind:  Hydration.

Intake of fluids is vital for our daily health, even in the winter, though it certainly increases in the summer months as we work outside in our yards and schedule outdoor events/play time.  On the hottest of days, when it’s impossible to avoid being outdoors (while working for instance) it even becomes vital to our safety and our lives.  60% of our body weight is made from water, and when it gets out of balance, significant alterations in important physiological reactions in the body occur than can be life threatening. 
So we obviously know staying hydrated is important, but how do we do it?  The best way of course is water, plain pure water. I recommend filtered water. Bottled water is acceptable as well.  Drink it often, drink it regularly and make it a habit.  Don’t like water?  Try adding some lemon or lime squeezed into it for flavor.  Yes you can get water from other drinks, but most come with added ingredients that are deleterious to your health.  You can try juicing for instance.  I am a fan of tea (unsweetened, with lemon or lime again) but it shouldn’t be something you drink all day long.  There really is no true replacement for plain good old fashioned water.

How much should we drink?  Different authors vary, some sticking with the eight 8-ounce glasses/day, but I don’t believe that one size fits all.  If you’re 6’5” and weigh 250 pounds, you probably have a different water intake requirement than a 5’0 110 pound person.  One formula says to divide your weight in half, and drink that number of ounces/day.  Let me say that is a lot of water and you’ll surely stay hydrated at that rate (and you’ll surely stay in the bathroom a lot).  It’s a great goal to shoot for though, and I have managed to hit that level with some frequency.  

However the best thing is to constantly be sipping on water throughout your day.  Keep a large bottle with you in your office, keep one at home too and drink and refill throughout the day.  I keep a 32 ounce bottle at my office and I try to go through 2 of them/day.  If you wait until you feel thirsty, you are most likely under-hydrated already so don’t wait that long.  A great way to tell if you are hydrated or not is (seriously) the color of your urine.  It should be a pale straw color at most (remember this saying “Pee Pale”).  If it is dark colored or bright colored, you are certainly under hydrated (unless you are taking vitamins, or have had beets or beet juice recently).  It’s a simple way to assess where you are.  And, in the summer, if you’re sweating a lot, or exercising a lot, of course you’ll need more water.

Caution signs for dehydration include dry mouth and swollen tongue, weakness, dizziness, confusion, sluggishness or fainting, inability to sweat and decreased urine output.  More significant dehydration that requires calling for emergency services include fever higher than 103, headaches, seizures, no urine output for 12 hours, fainting or difficulty breathing.

Water is vital to our health. Remember “The solution to pollution is dilution”, so keep yourself well hydrated for optimum health too!

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