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Benefits of Drinking Water

03/22/2021

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: drink plenty of water. But how much? How often? Bottled or tap? Are eight glasses a day a good goal or is that a made-up thing?

It’s completely true that water is good for you – and important for every part of your body. Every system in our bodies need it. Water helps to:

  • Regulate your body’s temperature
  • Carry oxygen and nutrition to your cells
  • Cushion your joints
  • Wash bacteria out of your bladder
  • Keep you regular and not constipated
  • Balance your electrolytes
  • Keep your heartbeat stable
  • Protect tissues and organs
  • Keep blood pressure in a normal range 

You are considered hydrated when you’ve given your body enough fluids for all of this to happen. When you are underhydrated or dehydrated, systems cannot properly function.

Other benefits of a healthy water level are a decreased appetite, better physical performance during exercise, higher energy levels and optimal brain function. Yes, indeed. Drinking enough water can yield better brain function. Studies indicate brain function can show impairment with even mild dehydration in the range of a 1-3 percent loss of body weight.

A mild fluid loss in the range of 1-3% can cause fatigue, anxiety, memory difficulty, decreased ability to concentrate and headaches. It doesn’t take much to become mildly dehydrated. For a person weighing 150 pounds, a fluid loss of 1-3% translates to 1.5 to 4.5 pounds.

The CDC offers tips to help us drink more water: 

  • Carry a water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day. 
  • Freeze some freezer safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long. 
  • Choose water over sugary drinks. 
  • Opt for water when dining out. You’ll save money and reduce calories. 
  • Serve water during meals. 
  • Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do. 
  • Make sure your kids get enough water too.

Dehydration can be sneaky. Seniors can be at extra risk for dehydration for a few reasons. They’re more likely to take medications that contribute to dehydration. Specifically, some medications for blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney conditions have diuretic effects—meaning they increase the amount of water and salt expelled from the body through urination, which can lead to – you guessed it – dehydration. Learn more about senior citizens and dehydration.

 

Bottled or Tap Water?

This is largely a matter of personal preference. Most tap water in the United States is safe to drink from the tap. 

The City of Oklahoma City website notes the Environmental Protection Agency limits the number of contaminants in water provided by public systems to ensure tap water is safe to drink. The Food and Drug Administration regulations limit contaminants in bottled water to provide the same public health protection.

Some contaminants may cause color, taste or odor problems in water but are not necessarily causes for health concerns. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or at epa.gov/safewater.

 

How much should I consume?

The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine determined an adequate daily fluid intake is:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.

Foods high in water content are excellent tools in your hydration toolkit. One cup of watermelon, for example, contains more than half a cup of water. Bonus: it’s also packed with vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium, clocking in at a scant 46 calories per cup.

The food with the highest water content is the humble cucumber. Cukes are 96 percent water! This makes them wonderfully low in calories as well. Toss them in your salads or slice them and dip them in hummus or salsa.

Tomatoes are just a percentage point behind cucumbers in water content. At 95 percent water, they’re another terrific choice and a great source of vitamin A.  Other foods with high concentrations of water are spinach (93 percent), mushrooms (92 percent), broccoli (90 percent), Brussels sprouts (88 percent), oranges (86 percent), apples (85 percent) and blueberries (84 percent). These foods are also full of vitamins and fiber and low in calories. Perfect to eat with abandon.

There are plenty of ways to tell if your body needs more water. Here are some symptoms to keep in mind.

Mild to moderate dehydration symptoms

  • Thirst
  • Muscle cramps
  • Not urinating often
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Cool, dry skin

Severe dehydration symptoms

  • Feeling faint or actually fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Very dark yellow urine

 

Should I worry about drinking too much water?

Probably not. Drinking too much water is rarely a problem for healthy, well-nourished adults. Athletes occasionally may drink too much water in an attempt to prevent dehydration during long or intense exercise. When you drink too much water, your kidneys can't get rid of the excess water. The sodium content of your blood becomes diluted. This condition, called hyponatremia, can be life-threatening.

 

For more healthy living tips, visit our On Your Health blog

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