Most of us know that staying hydrated is a major part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Drinking water is, of course, the best way to stay hydrated. Despite this, most of us fail to drink enough water on a daily basis. What makes it worse is that many of us know we should be drinking more but somehow don’t manage to get around to it. Instead, many of us tend to drink caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee which can actually dehydrate us.
How much water should we be drinking to stay hydrated?
Despite the rise of aesthetically pleasing and ever fancier water bottles, in general, we don’t drink enough. The human body is 60% water and, essentially, we need water in order to stay alive. But how much water do we need to be drinking? Well, contrary to what many of us were brought up to believe, we don’t need to be drinking 8 ounces (two liters) of water per day in order to be properly hydrated and thus, healthy.
In reality, there isn’t actually even a recommendation for how much plain water a person should consume during the course of the day. Instead, the focus is on daily fluid intake. This makes it somewhat more difficult to ascertain how much liquid you need to be drinking in order to keep your body healthy and prevent dehydration. Because we all tend to eat and drink different things and have different activity levels, the recommendations aren’t universal. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, it depends on your “age, gender, activity level, and environment”.
On average, however, the National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends 16 cups of fluid per day for men and 12 cups for women. Before you start to panic about never having reached this goal, remember that fluid comes from everything you ingest. This includes food which, on average, accounts for 20% of your daily fluid intake. The balance comes from what you drink, and despite their bad reputation, even caffeinated drinks count towards this.
But many of us are dehydrated
So, drinking the correct amount of fluid daily is vital for your overall health. But according to cardiologist Jennifer Haythe, MD, many of us aren’t managing to meet our basic daily requirements. And dehydration has some serious negative effects on the body. In the longer term, it can cause issues like:
- Brain fog
- Kidney problems
But that’s not all: some recent studies suggest that chronic dehydration is even linked to heart failure. But is that really the case? Of course, whilst this is all valuable information, it’s important to know how to tell if you’re dehydrated in the first place. According to John Batson, M.D., a sports medicine physician, if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Dehydration might cause heart problems
The study in question was presented at the European Society of Cardiology and looked at sodium as a marker.
The study focused on 15,792 middle-aged people. Sodium levels (salt) were used as a marker for “hydration habits”. They found that there was a definite link between those with higher sodium levels who were dehydrated and heart failure. It is important to note however that this study is observational and, the result was only an association. That simply means that dehydration cannot be said to be a direct cause of heart failure.
So, should you increase your water intake?
In the majority of cases, you’ll only see benefits from increasing your water or fluid intake. Given that most of us clearly aren’t drinking enough, we should try to monitor how much we are drinking and make sure that we attempt to meet our goals.
However, in the case of patients that have already experienced heart failure, water or fluid intake must be carefully monitored. If this is the case, water intake should never be adjusted without consulting your physician first.
What are the benefits of drinking more water?
The benefits of increasing your intake of water are great!
There is a definite correlation between drinking more and losing weight. This could be because of the body’s inability to accurately decipher the difference between hunger and thirst. It could also be because, with increased consumption of calorie-free water, you tend to drink less sugary drinks and sodas. And less sugar in the diet will definitely help you lose weight.
Research has also found that drinking more water on a daily basis does moderately increase metabolism. It can also help to reduce constipation, increase skin hydration, and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
It makes sense that hydration levels and heart health could be linked
If you think about it, it would make sense that there is a link between heart health and hydration levels. We already know that being properly hydrated is vital when it comes to the proper functioning of the body. Making sure that you are adequately hydrated is, overall, good for your health.
Remember that not all of your fluid intake has to come from water alone. Increasing intake of water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumbers, and celery could be just as beneficial.