ANGELA’S ANGELS HOME HEALTH AGENCY

Avoiding dehydration is crucial for your health. After all, water plays many roles in the body, from lubricating joints and processing nutrients to regulating body temperature.

“We lose water every day through natural bodily functions, but dehydration occurs when we lose more bodily fluids than we’re taking in,” says Jennifer Williams, MPH, a Columbus, Ohio–based research scientist and hydration expert at Abbott. “Because humans are made up of mostly water and electrolytes, we need to maintain the proper balance of these in our system.”

What Are the Signs You May Be Dehydrated?

Garth Graham, MD, MPH, the director and global head of healthcare and public health at Google/YouTube and Google Health, and a cardiologist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says that dehydration generally doesn’t sneak up on you. There are physical signs of dehydration, including headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and a flushed complexion, he says.

Dehydration may also make you feel irritable and zap your energy, says Sean Hashmi, MD, a nephrologist with Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills, California. “The body is such an incredible machine that it has built-in mechanisms that allow you to know when you need more or less water,” Dr. Hashmi says.

Taking a quick peek at the color of your urine when you use the bathroom can also clue you in on your hydration status. “We want our urine to be clear or a straw color, like a light yellow color, as opposed to a darker yellow or brown,” says Rachel Lustgarten, RD, at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian in New York City. A dark yellow color can be a sign of dehydration, she says. Consider it a hint that you need water — stat. All the same, certain medications, foods, and supplements can affect the color of your urine, so dark pee may not always be a sign that you’re dehydrated, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Who Is at Risk of Dehydration?

When it comes to dehydration, no one is immune, Williams says. “Dehydration can affect anybody, no matter how old — or young — they are, even if they’re completely healthy,” she says. That said, groups such as infants, children, and seniors need to be especially careful not to become dehydrated. Williams says that babies and children feel the effects of fluid loss quickly, so it’s important to call a pediatrician as soon as you suspect dehydration. The opposite may be true for older people. “As our sense of thirst becomes less keen with age, some may not even realize that they haven’t had enough to drink,” Williams says.

Certain medical conditions, like undiagnosed diabetes, and medications, such as diuretics and some blood pressure medications, may contribute to dehydration.

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Staying properly hydrated will not only help you avoid those negative side effects, but it will likely help you feel better overall — improving your mood, boosting brain function, and preventing fatigue, Williams says.

8 Strategies for Preventing Dehydration

Here are some simple ways to keep dehydration at bay.

1. Respond to Thirst When the Feeling Strikes

The No. 1 sign that you’re dehydrated? Thirst, says Lustgarten.

She points out that it can be easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day activities and forget to respond to your thirst cues, but they’re your body’s way of “communicating with you that you need more fluids,” Lustgarten says. Keep a water bottle nearby and take a swig whenever thirst strikes.

Better yet: Try to drink water regularly throughout the day so you never reach that level. “I like to remind people to carry a water bottle with them and refill it throughout the day,” Lustgarten says. You can try setting personal hydration goals, say by challenging yourself to finish the bottle before lunch and drink another one before you head home in the evening.

2. Assess the Inside of Your Mouth for Dehydration Symptoms

Another simple way to gauge how well hydrated you are is to check the moistness of the inside of your mouth, Hashmi says. “In medical terminology, we say, ‘Check the mucus membrane,’ but basically, it’s a simple way to check the inside of your mouth,” he says. “If it’s starting to get dry, you know you’re running low on water.”

3. Ignore the Popular Rule to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day (It’s Not Enough)

That long-standing advice to drink eight glasses of water each day? Unfortunately, for most of us, that’s not going to cut it. “That amount is only a general guideline and may not be enough fluid intake in more dehydrating environments or situations,” Williams says.

If your birth sex is female, aim to consume 11.4 cups of fluid daily; if your birth sex is male, aim for 15.6 cups.

The exact amount that’ll be right for you depends on a few things, including age and activity level, Williams adds.

4. Increase Your Water Intake When Exercising

Your body demands more water when you’re exercising at a high intensity or for a long time. “Fluid loss through exercise can be really significant in the setting of an endurance athlete,” says Lustgarten, adding that some high-performing athletes can lose up to 10 percent of their body weight through sweat during an athletic event.

Per one review, football players lose an average of 1.5 liters (L) of sweat per hour, and endurance athletes lose 1.28 L per hour.

Keep in mind that this is most important for highly active athletes, such as professionals. “Most of us who get to the gym a few times a week don’t have to be concerned about this,” Lustgarten says.

To determine your sweat loss and hydration needs, Williams suggests weighing yourself before and after exercise. “Losing less than 1 percent of your body weight during a workout is optimal,” she says. “For every pound lost, at least 16 fluid ounces [fl oz] of water or an oral electrolyte solution should be consumed to rehydrate.”

According to a separate review, you need to drink a volume that’s greater than what you lost during exercise to restore water balance.

5. Bring in Extra Electrolytes When Needed

Most of the time, drinking plain water is enough to fend off dehydration, Lustgarten says. But certain circumstances call for something more.

“For those who are engaging in physical activities that last more than 60 minutes, it might be appropriate to replenish their electrolytes, which is most easily done through a sports drink,” she says. Drinks that contain sodium or carbohydrates, such as carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drinks, can help you recover.

Milk has also been shown to help with rehydration because of its sodium, carbohydrate, and protein content.

Williams says to drink about 4 to 8 fl oz of a low-carb electrolyte-containing beverage every 15 to 20 minutes when exercising for more than an hour. Just check out the nutritional facts label first, because many of these drinks can be packed with calories and sugar, Lustgarten says.

“If someone is going to the gym and really sweating it out, although they might benefit from a sports drink, we also want to be aware of how many calories that person is taking in in a day so they’re not canceling out the hard work they’ve done at the gym,” Lustgarten says. She says that many brands make a low-sugar or calorie-free version, and she advises reaching for those options when possible.

6. Drink More Water When You’re Sick or in Hot Weather

Those of you dealing with severe cases of vomiting and diarrhea are at risk of becoming dehydrated.

Hot weather is also a clue that you need to increase your water intake. “If it’s hot outside, it’s always better to have more fluid,” Hashmi says, though he adds, “it’s really hard to have a formula for how much to drink.” It depends on factors like your body mass and how much you sweat.

7. Think Beyond Plain Water to Help Stave Off Dehydration

Lustgarten recommends water as the first choice when looking to rehydrate. Not a fan? No worries. “When it comes to hydration, all liquids count,” Hashmi says. “That can include coffee, juices, tea, and water.” You can add seltzer and carbonated water to the list, too, Lustgarten says. Just know that sweetened juices and teas will never beat out plain water in the healthfulness competition.

You can also help prevent dehydration by filling your diet with fruits and vegetables that have a high water content. According to previous research, fruits like cantaloupe, strawberries, and watermelon are 90 to 99 percent water, while apples, grapes, oranges, and pineapple are between 80 and 89 percent water.

Those are all great hydrating options.

8. Drink a Glass of Water When You Wake Up

In addition to paying attention to what you’re drinking, it’s important to pay attention to when. Williams recommends starting the day with a glass of water. “After spending eight hours in bed not drinking anything, it’s easy to wake up in a dehydrated state,” Williams says. This is especially crucial if you have a morning workout scheduled.

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