Have you had water today?
Water is something that most people take lightly, however, it is almost more important than food in keeping your body healthy. Water is the single most important substance we consume. Water makes up about 75% of an infant's weight and 55% of an adult's weight. You can survive for about two months without food, but you would die in about seven days without water!
Human cells simply cannot function without water. A main job of the kidneys is to excrete just enough water to keep cells properly hydrated. Excess water is excreted as urine. Contrary to myth, dark urine does not necessarily mean you’re dehydrated. Urine can be discolored by foods like asparagus, blackberries and beets. In most cases, thirst is a more reliable indicator that water is needed by the human body.
Good hydration definitely protects against kidney stones, and there is evidence that it counters constipation and exercise-induced asthma. It may also help protect against vascular diseases, like stroke, an elevated heart rate or sudden drop in blood pressure. Inadequate hydration can have debilitating effects. Studies by Lawrence B. Armstrong and colleagues at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory showed that dehydration can adversely affect vigilance, concentration, reaction time, learning, memory, mood and reasoning and can cause headaches, fatigue and anxiety. Older people, especially the frail elderly, are among those at greatest risk of poor hydration. The mechanism of thirst becomes less effective with age, and many older people cut back on how much they drink to limit how often they need to get to a bathroom. Young children are also at risk for dehydration as they may not fully be capable of recognizing thirst before it is too late.
The Institute of Medicine, which issues recommendations on the amounts of nutrients we need, states that an “adequate intake” of water ranges from 700 milliliters (about three cups) a day for newborns to 3.8 liters (16 cups) for lactating women. The amount of water each individual needs to consume is affected by what they eat, their weight, activity level and even the environment in which they live.
It is important for athletes to drink plenty of water, especially when high levels of activity, heat and humidity result in excessive sweating. But overdoing hydration has its own risks; marathon runners and other athletes have died after drinking more water than the kidneys are capable of processing in a timely manner. This has led to swollen cells and dangerously low blood levels of sodium and other electrolytes.
Keep that water bottle close and hydrate as we are heading into warmer weather!