Dehydration occurs when the body fluids are depleted. You lose more fluids when you sweat, breathe, or engage in strenuous activities. While most people deem dehydration as a minor concern, it affects virtually all body organs. The heart, in particular, is vulnerable to dehydration, so people who are prone to cardiovascular problems should always stay hydrated. People who are most at risk are the elderly, people suffering from chronic diseases, children, and athletes.
How Water Deficiency Affects Cardiovascular Health
The entire cardiovascular system is sensitive to water deficiency. Just a hint of dehydration is enough to disrupt the heart’s ability to pump blood all over the system. When you’re dehydrated, the blood loses volume. And when it does, the blood becomes thicker, harder to circulate. This puts extra pressure on the heart. The heart works harder to pump the thick blood all over the system, increasing the pressure in the arteries. The elevated and sustained pressure in the arteries damages the arterial wall and the heart tissues, causing chronic diseases.
On top of that, major organs like the brain, kidneys, liver, and the digestive tract are also affected by the lack of fluids in the body. Suffice it to say, you need to stay hydrated all the time to keep the body’s many systems healthy!
Heart-Friendly Reasons to Stay Hydrated
Eases Pressure on the Heart
Staying hydrated helps ease the pressure on the heart. When the heart is not forced to pump thicker blood through constricted blood vessels, the arterial wall and the heart tissues do not sustain damage at all. By staying hydrated, the blood does not lose volume, preventing the onset of usual dehydration symptoms. These symptoms include fatigue, confusion, hypertension, and dizziness.
Decreases the Risk of Heart Attack
Drinking at least 8 glasses of water every day is one of the most effective ways to decrease the risk of heart attacks. A 2002 study found the link between fatal coronary heart disease or CHD in adults and dehydration. According to the results, patients who drink more than 5 glasses of water daily have a lower risk of suffering from CHD compared to patients who are dehydrated. The same study found that staying hydrated minimizes the risk of CHD by 46% in men and a whopping 59% in women.
Decreases the Risk of Stroke
Stroke is the number one leading cause of long-term disability in the US. Each year, about 140,00 people die from stroke in the US alone. This debilitating condition occurs when blood cannot flow freely to the brain. Having low blood volume increases a person’s risk of suffering a stroke.
Studies show that majority of elderly patients who were admitted to hospitals due to stroke have dehydration-induced high plasma osmolality or low blood volume. A separate study by the American Heart Association confirmed the findings, noting that severe dehydration is associated with stroke. Increasing your water intake decreases your risk of developing this condition. When you stay hydrated, the blood doesn’t lose volume so it is able to flow freely to the brain.
Normalizes Heart Rate
The walls of major blood vessels have baroreceptors that track the circulatory system’s blood pressure. These baroreceptors could measure how much the stretching the vessel walls do when the blood pressure rises. If the blood volume is too high, the vessel walls stretch accordingly and if the blood volume is too low, they hardly stretch at all.
Ideally, the vessel walls should stretch a lot but when you’re low on fluids, they do not stretch as much as they should. This leads to abnormal heart rate. Losing too much fluid, not drinking enough water, or a combination of both could increase the risk of heart palpitations and low blood pressure. Irregular heartbeat and abnormal heart rhythms could lead to a variety of serious conditions. Staying hydrated keeps the blood volume level at normal levels, which normalizes the heart rate.
Stabilizes the Blood Pressure
As we discussed earlier, the body’s fluid levels play a critical role in managing the blood pressure. Severe and sustained dehydration could decrease the blood volume. When this occurs, the body compensates by retaining more sodium in the blood. The concentration of sodium in the blood is associated with high blood pressure.
When the blood loses volume, it becomes thicker, harder to circulate. As the blood thickens, the blood vessels squeeze themselves to boost circulation, which raises the blood pressure. Drinking more water helps keep the blood volume at the ideal level, stabilizing the blood pressure and preventing the risk of hypertension.
As you can see, staying hydrated is critical to maintaining optimal heart health! That’s why it pays to keep a bottle of water on hand so you can stay hydrated while on the go.
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