Complications and symptoms of dehydration can be mild to severe, ranging from constipation, mood changes, headaches and heart palpitations to heat stroke, migraines and heart attacks.
Dehydration is simple to avoid, right? Not necessarily. We may be dehydrated before experiencing symptoms of thirst.
Headaches and migraines
Temperature is a potential trigger for headaches and migraine. As the temperature rises by intervals of nine degrees, the risk for headache and migraines increases by 8 percent. This study involved 7,054 participants from one emergency room site.
Warmer temperatures can potentially reduce blood volume, causing artery dilation and resulting in higher risk.
In another study, those who drank four cups more water had significantly fewer hours of migraine pain and lower headache intensity than those who drank less.
Heart palpitations are very common and are broadly felt as a racing heart rate, skipped beat, pounding sensation or fluttering. Dehydration and exercise are contributing factors. Palpitations occur mainly when we don’t hydrate prior to exercise.
All we need to do is drink one glass of water prior to exercise and then drink during exercise to avoid palpitations. Though these symptoms are not usually life-threatening, they are anxiety producing for patients.
Potential for heart attacks
The Adventist Health Study, an observational study, showed a dose-response curve for men. In other words, group one, which drank more than five glasses of water daily, had the least risk of death from heart disease than group two, which drank more than three.
Those in group three, which drank fewer than two glasses per day, saw the least amount of benefit, comparatively. For women, there was no difference between groups one and two; both fared better than group three.
The reason for this effect, according to the authors, may relate to blood or plasma thickness and fibrinogen, a substance that helps clots form.
Mood and energy levels
In a study, mild dehydration resulted in decreased concentration, subdued mood, fatigue and headaches in women. In this small study the mean age of participants was 23, and they were neither athletes nor highly sedentary.
Dehydration was caused by walking on a treadmill with or without taking a diuretic (water pill) prior to the exercise. The authors concluded that adequate hydration was needed, especially during and after exercise.
Ways to stay hydrated
What’s the best way to stay hydrated? How much water we need to drink depends on circumstances, such as diet, activity levels, environment and other factors. It is not true necessarily that we all should be drinking eight glasses of water a day.
In a review article, the authors analyzed the data, but did not find adequate studies to suggest that eight glasses is supported in the literature. It may actually be too much for some patients.
You can also get a significant amount of water from foods. Nutrient-dense diets, like Mediterranean or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), have a plant-rich focus.
A study notes that diets with a focus on fruits and vegetables increases water consumption, since 95 percent of the weights of many fruits and vegetables are attributed to water. An added benefit is an increased satiety level without eating calorically dense foods.
Is coffee dehydrating?
In a review, it was suggested that caffeinated coffee and tea don’t increase the risk of dehydration, even though caffeine is a mild diuretic. With moderate amounts of caffeinated beverages, the liquid has a more hydrating effect than its diuretic effect.
Thus, it is important to stay hydrated to avoid complications — some are serious, but all are uncomfortable. Diet is a great way to ensure that you get the triple effect of high nutrients, increased hydration and sense of feeling satiated without calorie-dense foods.
However, don’t go overboard with water consumption, especially if you have congestive heart failure or open-angle glaucoma.