The Importance of Hydration for Heart Health

Water is vital for health. You can’t function when dehydrated. Your muscles all need water to function correctly. It aids digestion and blood sugar and may help weight loss. It can help you ween yourself off of soda. It’s necessary to drink enough water for exercise to be beneficial. Water can help you lower your cholesterol and so much more! As well as having cholesterol benefits, there are other ways water aids heart health.

Because dehydration makes blood thicker, your heart has to work harder to pump it through your body, which can wear on the heart. Your heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood a day. A hydrated heart operates at peak condition, pumping blood efficiently. When blood is thick, your heart must pump faster to compensate for the blood’s decreased volume. Additionally, that condensed blood holds more salt than usual.

Dehydration and thicker blood can cause your organs not to receive enough oxygen. “When you’re dehydrated, your heart has to work harder to maintain blood flow when you stand up,” said Dr. Nitin Kumar, a gastroenterologist from the Bariatric Endoscopy Institute. “If you’re sufficiently dehydrated and your heart is not up to this task, the insufficient blood flow to your brain can result in fainting.”

Being dehydrated can have other problems. For instance, people who are dehydrated suffer from strokes worse than hydrated people. “Studies suggest that about 60 percent of people are dehydrated at the time of stroke,” said Dr. Mona Bahouth, a stroke fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her research showed that stroke symptoms worsened or stagnated for 42 percent of stroke sufferers that were dehydrated, whereas only 17 percent of the hydrated people had the same negative experience.

Her research also found that almost half of the people she observed who had strokes were dehydrated at the time. Other studies put the number of people who were dehydrated and suffered stroked at sixty percent. The American Heart Association has stated that “Dehydration appears to be common in hospitalized stroke patients and is associated with severe stroke and poor outcomes.”  

It’s not clear why proper hydration at the time of stroke is linked to better stroke outcomes. Dehydration may cause blood to be thicker, causing it to flow less easily to the brain through the narrowed or blocked blood vessels.” Dr. Bahouth said.

However, there is good news about combating the problem: “Rehydration is cheap and can be given to people even in the most remote locations.”

As well as strokes, being dehydrated may also increase your risk for a heart attack. One study found that being hydrated lowered the risk of coronary heart disease by 59 percent in women and 46 percent in men. This might in part be because the heart is already under strain from the high blood pressure caused by dehydration.
October 25, 2019
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