These summer days can sure get hot. While your first thought to beat the heat might be to jump in the pool or find the nearest source of air conditioning, sometimes the best thing to do is grab a drink of water. Without something to drink on a steamy day, you put yourself at risk of dehydration.
Soumya Panchagnula, M.D., a family medicine specialist with Henry Ford Health, breaks down why it is so important to keep drinking your water.
“Water is essential to nearly all of our body’s natural functions,” says Dr. Panchagnula. “In fact, your body is made up of about 60 percent water.”
Consuming a proper amount of water each day can keep you healthy by regulating your body temperature, increasing cell function and helping distribute nutrients throughout your body. Without an adequate amount of water, your body starts to lose control over these functions.
What Causes Dehydration
There are many factors that can cause dehydration, but the most common is simply not drinking enough water throughout the day.
“I typically recommend that a healthy adult consumes about 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, or at least 48 to 64 ounces,” says Dr. Panchagnula. “Most of the time, drinking water when thirsty will provide your body with a sufficient amount.”
Another major cause of dehydration is when water in your body is expelled. This can happen when you:
- Have diarrhea
What Happens When Your Body Gets Dehydrated
“When you get dehydrated, your body is losing water without losing salt and potassium,” Dr. Panchagnula says. “This causes your salt levels to rise and water to rush out of your cells.”
As a result, the lack of water starts to affect the function of your body. When significantly dehydrated, you won’t be able to sweat anymore – meaning your body will be unable to regulate your body temperature.
Water plays a big role in removing waste from the body. Without water, your kidneys – which regulate this process – have a harder time doing their job. Over time, frequent dehydration or severe cases can lead to kidney stones or kidney disease.
Dehydration also means bad news for your heart in the long run. When your body is without adequate amounts of water, your heart must work overtime to pump blood through the body. The added stress can cause high blood pressure.
Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration can appear in different ways. For the most part, you will know if you are becoming dehydrated because you’ll be thirsty. Make sure you are paying attention to these other symptoms, as well though, so you can act and drink more water as soon as possible:
How to Prevent Dehydration
“Usually listening to your body is the best way to stay hydrated,” says Dr. Panchagnula. “Drink when you’re thirsty!”
But don’t take that opportunity to chug a sports drink or sip on an alcoholic beverage or cool coffee drink. For the non-athlete, sports drinks are typically unnecessary – although they do contain electrolytes and are appropriate in excessive heat or after an intense athletic competition. As for alcohol and caffeinated drinks, they actually cause dehydration by preventing your body from retaining water.
Make it a habit to get your 64 ounces of water a day and find simple ways to incorporate it into your routine, like carrying a reusable water bottle with you or making sure you drink a big glass of water with every meal.
If you have any additional symptoms of dehydration, talk with your doctor about possible causes and treatments. Certain medical conditions and medications can increase your risk dehydration. Make sure you are aware of your dehydration risk.
Dr. Soumya Panchagnula is a family medicine doctor seeing patients of all ages at Henry Ford Medical Center – Warren.