The Surprising Science Behind the Health Benefits of Hydration
How Healthy Hydration is Essential to Health, Happiness, and Productivity
Healthy hydration is a straightforward strategy for maximizing your personal health, productivity, energy, and efficiency.
If you’re just too busy to consider your hydration needs you could be writing yourself a ticket to poor health.
With executives costing the country $15.7 billion dollars per year in lost productivity through illness, every effort should be made to ensure optimal health for your whole management team.
Maximizing our personal health is individually important to each of us.
But trusted executives are also essential to a stable, productive working environment; so responsible leaders also owe it to their team to make their own health a priority.
And yet too many executives are overlooking hydration, a vital part of any daily healthcare routine.
Drink Your Way to Health
Up to 75% of Americans admit they simply don’t drink enough water.
You spend a lot of time working, so it’s crucial to incorporate a plan for caring for your health and well-being into your daily working routine.
But for many, staying hydrated throughout the working day can be a real problem. Busy schedules, full workloads, and demanding workplaces all contribute to overlooking one of the simplest elements of self-health care – staying well hydrated.
The Importance of Healthy Hydration
Healthy hydration is vital for wellness, energy, and productivity.
Your ability to think and problem solve, your mood stability, the functions of your organs, the lubrication of your joints, and even the performance of your digestive system all depend on good hydration habits.
Executives are already at a higher risk of poorer overall health than the average worker – but even healthy people risk problems when poorly hydrated. One study by the Journal of Nutrition on older, healthy men showed a significant reduction in muscle strength, power, and endurance after losing only 1% of their bodily water.
Incorporating healthy hydration strategies into everyday work practices is one way to improve the health of your workforce.
Surprising Hydration Health Facts
Dehydration can quickly become dangerous.
Lack of hydration is a frequent cause of hospital admission, and particularly concerning in the older population.
But in fact, your hydration habits affect your whole body in many fascinating ways.
The Heart of the Matter
The Heart Research Institute tells us that water is vital for heart health.
Did you know that dehydration thickens your blood? This causes more strain on your heart as it struggles sluggishly to pump the blood around your body.
Dehydration can cause heart palpitations, an irregular heartbeat, and constrict blood vessel walls, which can lead to high blood pressure. Staying well hydrated is one simple way you can help your heart to remain healthy.
The stark reality is that senior executives are already disproportionately at risk of heart disease. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking such a simple measure to improve your heart health.
Drinking Improves Executive Thinking
You can’t think efficiently without a well-hydrated brain.
Just a 2% drop in brain hydration causes a decrease in cognitive efficiency, which we sometimes shrug off as “brain fog”.
According to the Journal of American College of Nutrition, mild dehydration “impairs performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor and immediate memory skills.” Being mildly dehydrated can also make you feel moodier and more fatigued, affecting your performance and ability right across your day.
Dehydrated brains start to struggle with reaction time, coordination, focus and attention. Even your short-term memory and ability to solve math problems can be affected by dehydration. This is clearly not optimal when planning policies and strategies, liaising with stakeholders, or trying to close a tricky negotiation.
So dehydration can lead to performance issues in real terms. And prolonged dehydration can even cause brain cells to shrink in size and mass.
You want to bring your best self to work. Proper hydration maximizes your ability to focus, think, problem-solve, and engage at the highest level.
Kidneys are Key
Kidneys perform the essential function of filtering out waste from your body; they can’t perform efficiently if you don’t drink enough life-giving water.
Your kidneys filter about half a cup of blood for your body every single minute. They’re responsible for removing waste and acids and helping you maintain a healthy, balanced bloodstream with the salts and minerals you need to stay energetic and focused throughout the day.
Kidney stones are a common health complaint. They can be extremely painful and sometimes lead to further complications, and they often require time-consuming and expensive medical care.
And yet simply by staying well hydrated, you have a good chance of entirely preventing kidney stones from occurring at all.
Properly lubricated joints rely on you being well hydrated.
Your joint cartilage is largely comprised of water, and this cartilage provides essential cushioning and shock absorption for your joints.
This means that staying well hydrated can ease joint pain symptoms, allowing you to stay active and engaged.
Studies show that executives struggle with the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. One easy way to enable more active lifestyle choices is to ensure your joints are well lubricated by drinking enough water.
More Health Hydration Benefits
Hydration is also key for many other bodily functions.
- Water helps you digest food faster – you can’t metabolize carbohydrates and proteins without it
- Healthy hydration can help weight loss
- You need water to regulate your internal body temperature
- You need water to help flush bacteria from your bladder
- You need extra hydration when experiencing periods of illness
- And it’s vital to be well hydrated when you’re pregnant
Thirst for Knowledge
Thirst is an obvious sign that it’s time to drink.
But sometimes the thirst response doesn’t kick in until you’re already dehydrated. And some say they just don’t notice feeling thirsty when they’re busy.
So if you can’t always rely on thirst, what other signs might you be missing?
Signs You Might Be Dehydrated
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your health care professional for a check-up. Don’t rely on Dr. Google’s diagnosis, aim to get an expert opinion.
Symptoms of Dehydration Include:
- Dehydration is often overlooked as a factor in fatigue but can manifest as low energy periods. The decrease in blood volume caused by dehydration puts extra strain on the heart. Your heart provides oxygen and nutrients to every cell; no wonder you feel tired when it’s not functioning properly.
- Muscle cramps can be a signal that you’re dehydrated. Without enough fluid, our muscles become sensitive to spasms.
- Overeating and food cravings. You might be surprised to discover that dehydration can trick your body into believing you’re hungry and can lead to sugary cravings and hunger pains. According to the Annals of Family Medicine there is a “significant association between inadequate hydration and elevated BMI”. So ensuring you’re well hydrated can prevent overeating. Considering executives have a 40% obesity rate, good hydration is critical.
- Less frequent urination and/or a change in color. If your urine is darker yellow and more pungent than usual, you may need to up your fluid intake.
- Dizziness and light-headedness are sometimes caused by dehydration.
- Bad breath. Nobody wants to be the colleague to be avoided. A healthy mouth produces saliva to keep the area moist, and a well-hydrated mouth is required to maintain the correct pH levels. Dehydration commonly means you don’t have sufficient saliva to swallow regularly enough to remove all the bacteria, debris, and dead cells that cling to the mouth area – which can easily lead to bad breath.
- Brittle hair. Even your crowning glory feels the adverse effects of not drinking enough water. Your hair can stop growing, grow brittle and become prone to breaking when you’re improperly hydrated.
- Flaky, less supple skin and cracked lips. If you want to avoid the lizard king look, staying hydrated is a good idea. Dry lips and flaky skin lips are common when you’re not getting enough water. Chronic dehydration can manifest as prematurely aging skin.
- Dehydration headaches are common. Harvard Health tells us that water deprivation headaches are easily regulated by hydrating correctly.
- Heart palpitations. Lack of hydration can sometimes result in heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat. This can be dangerous and needs to be addressed.
- If you’re struggling with irregular, hard or difficult bowel movements, consider the possibility that you might be dehydrated.
Take Control of Your Hydration before Dehydration Controls You
In plain terms, dehydration is unhealthy and can even be dangerous. But the good news is that you have the power to take control of your hydration health.
We’re unique individuals with unique needs, but we all share one simple need – life-giving water for proper hydration.
Throw Out the Rule Book
Accepted wisdom states that you must drink 8 x eight-ounce glasses of water per day, but this isn’t precisely true. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends approximately 125 ounces daily for men, and 91 ounces daily for women.
But those numbers are just a starting point because we’re all individuals living unique lives.
The Hydration Equation
To figure out your own hydration needs you should factor in your own personal circumstances:
- The climate you work in – hotter climates mean we need more water
- Your metabolism – faster metabolisms need more hydration
- Active lifestyles mean more significant water needs
- Your size – larger bodies need more water
- Your age – we tend to need less water as we age
- Illness – you should increase your water intake when you’re sick
- Your caffeine consumption and overall diet – caffeine, alcohol soft drinks and salty foods can increase dehydration
Hydration Hacks for a Healthy Workplace
So drinking enough water is a simple, effective method for improving your overall health.
But what can you do to improve your habits?
Set a Daily Goal
Talk to your healthcare professional and decide your personal healthy hydration point. Then set yourself an achievable goal.
Just setting a goal can be a great motivator. And setting a SMART Goal allows you to monitor your hydration, so you can discuss this with your health provider at your next wellness check-up.
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound – Smart Goals can help us achieve results in many areas.
When your work schedule is hectic and demanding it’s easy to forget to drink enough water – yet that’s the time you really need to hydrate properly. Fortunately, a few simple tricks can help you to remember.
Bottle it Up
- Sip water throughout the day. It can be helpful to have an insulated water bottle handy, so your water stays cool and refreshing, and you can track exactly how much water you’ve consumed.
2. Drink water instead of soda, sports, or other drinks. While these drinks might have a place in your working day, replacing just one or two of the drinks you want with the water your body really needs is a great start.
3. Get in the habit of drinking a glass of water before you eat every meal. Not only will you eat less, but you’ll also help your body digest the food you’re eating. If you eat three meals a day, that adds up to three extra cups of water daily.
The science is clear – good hydration habits are the cornerstone of energetic, productive life.
Demanding schedules demand our best and most productive contributions and that means making healthy habits part of your daily schedule.
Education about hydration provides an accessible, simple yet essential tool for better health.
Take one for the team – practice healthy hydration habits. And help your body to help you to regain and maintain optimal health.