You know that water is good for you, as it's a vital element that ensures your body functions as it should. So it naturally follows that dehydration—when your body lacks water—can be harmful to your health for a number of reasons. But did you know about the problems dehydration could pose to your heart?
"It's easy for your heart to pump blood when your body is hydrated," says Sanjay Bhojraj, MD, a cardiologist at
Mission Hospital. "But when you are dehydrated, your heart has to work harder and that can cause extra strain."
One sign of dehydration is low blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower, while 90/60 or lower is considered abnormally low and called hypotension. Signs of hypotension can include dizziness, fatigue and nausea. "In extremely severe cases, a person could be at risk of hypovolemic shock, caused when there's a sudden drop in blood pressure and not as much oxygen can reach the tissues, and that can be fatal if not treated," Dr. Bhojraj says.
Dehydration also has the potential to trigger palpitations, where it feels like your heart skips a beat, Dr. Bhojraj adds. Palpitations, in the short term, generally don't cause damage to the heart.
To prevent dehydration, Dr. Bhojraj recommends 9 cups of fluids per day for women and 13 cups for men. That can be more if you exercise heavily and sweat a lot, as you'll need to replenish those lost fluids. You also want to make sure to get plenty of water if you're sick and losing fluids through vomiting or sweating out a fever. Water intake isn't limited to liquid—fruits and veggies high in water content help your body, too. "If you're not sure that you're getting enough fluids, ask yourself if you feel thirsty—that's a symptom of dehydration," Dr. Bhojraj says. "Also, your urine should be a pale yellow, almost clear. If it's a darker yellow, you need more water."
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