A number of years ago, after finishing ninth in the Indy 500, racecar driver Tony Stewart flew to Concord, North Carolina, to compete in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 that same night—a grueling feat in racing. During the race, he began to feel nauseous and hot. By the race’s end, he had become so weak and dizzy that he was unable to climb out of his car and had to be taken to the hospital to replenish his fluids.
Tony was suffering from dehydration, the combined result of exertion (he drove 1,090 miles that day), heat, and inadequate fluid intake. Although Tony’s story is extreme, many people suffer from dehydration because they fail to drink enough water—especially during the summer.
Your body is a water-based environment. In fact, two-thirds of the human body is water. Water is required for the distribution of nutrients, electrolytes, hormones, and other chemical messengers throughout the body, as well as the removal of waste products. Water is involved in cellular energy production and the maintenance of body temperature. It is also an important structural component of skin, cartilage, and other tissues.
Folks, the only way to ensure that you are adequately hydrated is to drink at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water every day. Some of my patients tell me that the mere thought of drinking that much water sends them running to the bathroom. It’s true—you are going to urinate more frequently. This is actually a useful indicator of adequate hydration. If you’re only producing small quantities of dark, concentrated urine, you’re not drinking enough. (To ensure that your hydration routine doesn’t interfere with a good night’s sleep, try cutting back on fluids two or three hours before bedtime.)
Another common complaint is that it’s just too hard to remember to drink that much water in an effort to prevent dehydration. The solution is to keep a filled water bottle at your desk, in your car, and near your favorite chair—and to reach for it before you feel thirsty. Years of chronic dehydration suppress thirst signals, and your body is likely crying out for water, even if you are not thirsty.
So, for good health—drink up!
Now it’s your turn: Do you have tips of your own for preventing dehydration?