Water is the most important nutrient we can give our bodies. As adults, we’re made up of around 60-70% water, more for babies and less for older adults. Water is essential for the health of our cells, organs, and muscles to function properly. We literally can’t live without it. But, did you know that not drinking enough water affects your heart and can lead to conditions like irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack?
Here’s what you need to know about your heart and staying hydrated.
Water and Your Heart
Your heart transports blood through your body to all of your organs, including your brain. Blood consists mainly of water, and we need a continuous supply of H2O to keep your blood thin so it can move through your system more easily. If you’re dehydrated, even slightly, your heart has to work harder to pump blood, which can increase your heart rate and cause an irregular heartbeat or palpitations.
Dehydration thickens your blood and makes blood vessel walls constrict which can cause hypertension, or high blood pressure, and strain your heart. Overtime this leads to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Blockage of the arteries can cause a heart attack.
Thicker blood can also may form blood clots, and if a clot blocks blood from reaching your brain, it will cause a stroke.
When you’re sufficiently hydrated, your heart is able to function properly and keep your blood moving, providing oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body.
Your heart is a muscle that needs to stay hydrated to function properly, so give it what it needs every day.
How Much Water is Enough?
There’s an old wives’ tale that says you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day. That’s about 64 ounces and it turns out, that’s a pretty good number.
However, we all have different needs.
Most women need around 90 ounce of total fluids each day and men around 125. Men tend to have more muscles which contain more water than fat.
That includes water that comes from food and other beverages, but the bulk of your liquids should be plain water.
If you exercise, live in a warmer climate or high altitude, you may need to drink more water.
Also, if you are taking any blood pressure medication, or other diuretic, talk with your doctor about making sure you’re getting enough water.
The best way to tell if you are drinking enough is by the color of your urine. It should be light yellow. If it’s dark, you need to drink more water.
Signs of Dehydration
Thirst is the first sign that you are already dehydrated. You should never wait to drink water until you are thirsty. If you are exercising, you should drink water before you start and several times during your workout so that you don’t become dehydrated. Use that rule for doing anything strenuous or spending a lot of time in the sun.
Other signs of dehydration include:
- Weakness in your muscles
- Dark Urine
- Dry mouth or skin
- Rapid heart rate
- Urinating less frequently or in low volume
What Else Can I Drink Besides Water?
Water is the best thing to drink because it has no calories and can fill you up, but you can drink anything that has a large water content and it will still count towards your daily water intake.
The only exception are beverages that act as diuretics like alcohol and caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, and sodas. In limited amounts they are fine, but you might need to increase your water as they can also be dehydrating.
Herbal teas that are caffeine free and sparkling water are great choices.
Limit sugary drinks like sodas or fruit juices.
If you’re doing heavy cardio for longer than 60 minutes, then sports drinks may be best as they also have electrolytes which you lose during exercise. However, they also contain a lot of sugar.
Keep Your Heart Healthy
Drink enough fluids and eat plenty of foods that have a high water content, like fruits and vegetables, every day. Make sure you’re also drinking plenty of water throughout the day. More if you’re doing strenuous activity or spending a lot of time in the sun.
You’ll lower your risk of hypertension and irregular heartbeat, both which can lead to more serious problems like heart disease or stroke.
A hydrated heart is a happy heart. Keep that blood pumping.