Haims: A healthy life starts with hydration
We can last up to six weeks without food, but only one week without water.
Our body is made up of about 75% water. Every cell in our body depends upon it. Water helps our body in regulating temperature, protects and cushions vital organs, lubricates joints, moistens the oxygen we breathe, and aids in removing waste. It is vital that we drink enough water to maintain homeostasis.
Over the past 30 years, much research has been conducted on the health benefits of proper hydration. Whether from the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, or findings from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, the data is consistent — being well hydrated reduces the odds of developing chronic conditions and biological aging.
Recent studies indicate that people who are well-hydrated may have a better chance of slowing down the aging process and living longer. These studies show that in both animal and human cells, dehydration can lead to pro-inflammatory activity and DNA damage that has been linked to accelerated aging.
Unfortunately, Americans drink too many water beverages that may harm our health. Think about it, from a Coke to a bottle of well-marketed flavored or fruit “essence” water, do you ever wonder what all the ingredients are? While high fructose corn syrup or crystalline fructose are prominent ingredients in many flavored water beverages, so are modified food starch, sucralose, propylene glycol, niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine HCI, red-40, and dyes like Blue-1 and Yellow-5.
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Researchers and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration believe that many additives may not be harmful. However, while some additives are added to help our body absorb water, the CDC does note that, additives like propylene glycol is “generally recognized as a safe additive for foods and medications.” Wondering what “generally” means? It means, except in high doses when it may cause headache and dizziness.
Sucralose, found in many beverages, is an artificial sweetener that is hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar, has had reports indicating that it may upset the microbiome within the gut and may cause increased inflammation. And, the all too common dyes like Blue-1 and Yellow-5 are believed to be linked to causing allergic reactions and hyperactivity.
When choosing to drink water, it may be beneficial to consider drinking regular, unflavored and unsweetened water. Although most bottled waters contain small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and salt for a bit of flavor, these additives have not been reported to cause harm in animal or human studies.
Here in the mountains of Colorado, proper hydration is of greater concern than in other parts of the country. At higher altitudes, the body loses far more water through perspiration (sweating) and respiration (breathing) than at sea level. Some research indicates that water loss at altitude can be as much as two times that at sea level. For recreational and performance endurance athletes, this can be a concern.
The American Heart Association has published information stating that the amount of water each person needs can vary. One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re consuming enough water is to check the color of your urine. If it’s pale in color and clear, you are probably well-hydrated. However, if your urine is dark-colored, you may be dehydrated.
Dehydration can have more far-reaching implications than you might think. Outside of causing thirst, cramps, urinary tract infections, kidney concerns, and high blood pressure, dehydration can affect the brain. Extreme dehydration causes a shrinking of the blood vessels in the brain, which can affect memory and coordination.
Adult females should drink about 2.2 liters per day and adult males should drink about 3 liters per day. Talk to your health care provider to confirm the right amount for you.
Don’t dismiss the well-proven fact that proper hydration can increase the odds of living a disease-free life.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.