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C-Force: What We Think We Know About Hydration Could Be Wrong

: Chuck Norris on

We are now going through some scary times when it comes to the extremely hot weather blanketing parts of the country. As I mentioned last week, the Environmental Protection Agency says these conditions are increasing in both intensity and frequency. It's of crucial importance that we start to pay closer attention to the sometimes-overlooked side effects during heat waves, the EPA warns.

Heat kills in three main ways, Ollie Jay, a professor of heat and health at the University of Sydney in Australia, explains in an Associated Press report referenced last week. The first is by heatstroke, in which increased body temperature causes organ failure. The second is strain on the heart caused by the weather event, especially for those who suffer from cardiovascular disease. Last, but not least, is dangerous levels of dehydration, in which people lose liquids and severely stress kidneys.

Given the potential severity of the situation, the simple response that we "need to stay hydrated" doesn't cut it anymore. We hear it all the time. But what exactly does it mean?

"There is a lot of misinformation out there on hydration," writes Giselle Castro-Sloboda in a CNET report. Among the hydration myths that she suggests we stop believing is the notion that drinking coffee is dehydrating. It is an opinion that is proven to be false. According to Mayo Clinic registered dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, "Coffee, tea or other caffeinated products are not absolutely dehydrating, especially if they are consumed regularly." According to Everyday Health, a Mayo Clinic report adds that "caffeinated beverages can still help all adults achieve their daily hydration goals."

Nancie George of Everyday Health reports that "while caffeine may have a diuretic affect, increasing your need to urinate, one crossover study of 50 men found that there were no significant differences in total hydration when the men drank four cups of coffee daily compared with four cups of water. The results of the study, which were published in the journal PLoS One, suggest that coffee hydrates similarly to water when consumed in moderation by regular coffee drinkers." That said, coffee should not be one's only source of liquid. Drinking water remains important. "Most organ functions require water in the right proportion to work -- meaning your muscles, heart, and kidneys all need water and also need the body to be adequately hydrated in order to work properly," explains Dr. Shilpi Agarwal, a board-certified family medicine physician in Washington, D.C., in an Everyday Health report.

According to Malina Malkani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition and wellness author, "While about 80 percent of our fluid intake comes from liquids, roughly 20 percent comes from the liquid found in watery foods like juicy fruits and vegetables." Everyday Health reports that, according to Malkani, "some produce -- like watermelon and spinach -- is nearly 100 percent water by weight. Other hydrating foods include cucumbers, celery, radishes, watercress, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and strawberries."

What is the right amount of water a person should consume? "When it comes to water, some people overdo it," writes Everyday Health's Leslie Barrie. The idea that you need to drink "eight glasses of water a day" no longer holds water, according to experts. Nor does the idea that "there's no such thing as drinking too much water." A person can be overly hydrated, which presents its own set of health risks.

"Fluid needs depend on your body size, health status, activity, climate (including altitude) and age," Zeratsky tells CNET. "Changes in medications, age and health-related conditions like pregnancy and lactation can impact your thirst and require more fluids."

 

"Being hydrated isn't just about getting enough water," Yahoo Life's Kaitlin Reilly writes. "It also means that our bodies are in homeostasis, that is, our mineral, vitamin and fluid levels are balanced."

As reported by Barrie, "A study published in 2019 found that people who slept six hours each night were more dehydrated than those who regularly slept eight. A potential reason? Scientists point to the disruption of vasopressin, a hormone released at night that helps your body maintain its hydration." This is yet another example that when it comes to dehydration, there is no one-size-fits-all indicator.

For those who need to prioritize hydration, the confusion around the concept of hydration and dehydration does not help. Older folks are faced with other problems. According to an AARP report, Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, director of the Global Consortium on Climate Health an Education at Columbia University in New York City, says "there aren't specific protocols for prescribing medications during hot weather."

"Several pills and potions can affect how well the body is able to handle heat," the report continues. This issue is "particularly important for older people," Sorensen says, due their higher likelihood of using medication.

Young or old, setting up a time to speak with your doctor and coming up with a plan to address your specific needs and actions for the hot-weather days either upon you or on the horizon is not only critical but could be life-saving.

Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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