Why Hydration Is So Critical for the Heart
You’ve probably been told that hydration is key to good health, and this is very true. Our bodies are mainly composed of water, and our hydration status plays a significant role in every bodily function we have. The best way to illustrate this concept is that we can survive without food for weeks, yet we can only live a few days without water.
Beyond the effect on our general health, staying well hydrated offers some undeniable and less obvious benefits to our hearts.
First, staying hydrated can directly improve our heart health because dehydration lowers our blood volume – essentially, it makes our blood thicker. This requires the heart to pump harder to make sure blood travels throughout the body. When we hydrate, think about diluting a sauce and how easier it flows. The same goes for our blood. Hydrated blood travels more easily around the body, puts less pressure on the heart, and keeps blood pressure lower, reducing the risk for long-term cardiovascular disease.
Our hydration status also affects other lifestyle choices that ultimately affect the heart.
Dehydrated people are typically less likely to have the motivation to exercise. Dehydration leads to fatigue, tiredness, and a general sense of ill health. Of course, proper exercise is critical to heart health, so people living a sedentary lifestyle due to dehydration are necessarily affecting their hearts negatively.
Similarly, those not drinking enough water tend to overeat. This is known as head hunger. While your body is craving water, your mind may mistake that for hunger. As a result, patients often eat hundreds or even thousands of more calories a day, much of which could’ve been avoided if they drank enough water. Excess calories lead to excess weight, and excess weight is a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Getting enough water is a combination of several things. First, it is essential to drink upwards of 64 fluid ounces a day. You may require even more if you live in a very hot or cold climate or are very active. You can tell you’re dehydrated by the color of your urine, which should be straw-colored. You can also pinch your skin, and if it doesn’t snap back quickly, that may be a sign of dehydration as well. Lastly, if you are thirsty, likely, you are already dehydrated. You should aim to drink your 64+ ounces of water slowly throughout the day rather than at once or in bursts.
Can Water Stop a Heart Attack?
Water and proper hydration most certainly cannot stop a heart attack in progress. In fact, the patient would find it incredibly difficult to ingest any water while in cardiac arrest. However, drinking enough water throughout your life, or even starting now, can significantly reduce many of the risks associated with cardiovascular disease and ward off long-term heart failure. Of course, everybody is different, and each of us has a unique set of cardiovascular risk factors that must be addressed through lifestyle, medical or surgical treatment, if necessary.
We look forward to helping with any cardiovascular concerns you may have and helping you if you’re looking to improve your lifestyle and, by extension, your heart health. Please schedule a consultation with one of our cardiologists to learn more.