Hydration: effects on general health status

Hydration: effects on general health status
Good hydration, and consequently sufficient fluid administration to obtain optimal fluid balance, is of utmost importance for general well being. Even small imbalances, also in perfectly healthy people, will cause negative side effects. Scientific research already has shown that not enough drinking water can lead amongst others to lessened concentration, mood swings and lethargy, headaches or dizziness. These symptoms may arise even before getting the thirsty feeling.  Continued fluid imbalance may provoke fainting, coma and eventually even death. Causes of dehydration: Most important causes of dehydration can be listed as:
  • High temperatures : especially in the actual unusually hot summer temperatures reigning in the European countries, even with moderate exercise
  • Excessive perspiration : as a consequence of high atmospheric temperatures, physical exertion or illness
  • Diarrhea or vomiting : large amounts of fluids get lost this way, even at lower atmospheric temperatures
  • Fever: elevated body temperature levels lead to increased fluid loss, especially in combination with other pathologies
  • Increased urine production : increased thirst and increased urine production may point towards a condition such as diabetes.  If the increased urine production is not compensated adequately by drinking water, dehydration will occur.
Symptoms of dehydration:  recognize them!
  • Even slight mood swings, tiredness, lessened concentration and lethargy can be an indication of fluid imbalance.
  • Decreased need to urinate and dark coloured urine are a clear indication : when properly hydrated, urine should be pale yellow. Dark coloured urine – aside from certain other pathologies or medication effects – needs to be treated by drinking water;
  • Thirst :unfortunately by the time the sensation of thirst is becoming apparent, dehydration is already a fact.  Therefore the urge to drink before you get thirsty. Seniors are especially at risk, since the thirst sensation is strongly diminished in this age group.  This is one of the reasons why dehydration is most frequent in this population segment, even when atmospheric temperatures are normal. Seniors should be prompted to drink and should be convinced to do so since they often do not feel like drinking and will tend to have a few sips only.
  • Lessened or complete lack of perspiration, especially in hot weather conditions, dry skin with no elasticity, mental confusion are urgent matters and require urgent intervention.
Tips and advice to optimize fluid administration
  • Young children, adolescents and young adults can usually be persuaded to go out with extra water bottles.  Same applies to sports people :  they even contribute to promote trendy water bottles and appliances, encouraging other population groups to copy them.
  • However, this unfortunately is not the case for the senior groups : on the contrary , this segment might even find carrying water bottles or other appliances unsuitable.  At the same time are they prone to sip tea or coffee, or alcoholic beverages in hospitality surroundings.
  • Avoid coffee/tea and alcoholic beverages as they have a dehydrating effect.
  • If drinking water is no option extra fluids could be added via smoothies, soups, cold summer soup such as gazpacho, frozen fruit juices (preferably sugar free).
  • Salads aid to maintain proper hydration too, due to the high water content of the salad vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber…
  • Listen to your body : in the summer it will crave salads, cold fruit, fruitshakes, even ice cream, rather than stodgy, hot meals.
  • The human body is a complex machinery and perfectly capable – certain pathologies aside – to instruct our brain of its needs : learn to listen to it.
References: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/ https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults#1 https://universityhealthnews.com
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