We know that it’s important to stay hydrated but many of us still aren’t drinking enough fluid every day – and that could be putting us at risk of heart issues, a new study says.
We’re all used to drinking more in the summer months to avoid dehydration. Most of us are also pretty good at taking water bottles to the gym with us or making sure we have a glass of H2O after a sweaty run. But how diligent are we at staying hydrated when we’re not working out?
If you’re the sort of person who drinks eight glasses of water a day, hats off to you. For the rest of us who carry water bottles around everywhere but never actually take a proper gulp, it’s time to make more of an effort. That’s because a new study has found that good hydration may reduce the long-term risk of heart issues.
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Research suggests that drinking enough fluids throughout your life not only keeps your body healthy and functioning, but also reduces the risk of severe heart problems in the future. Published in the European Heart Journal, researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that drinking enough water had a similar impact as reducing salt intake on overall heart health.
According to the British Heart Foundation, more than 900,000 people currently live with heart failure (where the heart can’t pump enough blood around the body) in the UK. And in 2019, coronary heart disease was the single biggest killer of all genders worldwide. So, anything that can improve your heart health now is really bloody important.
The study assessed data from more than 15,000 adults aged 45-66 over a 25-year period. Scientists looked at people’s serum sodium levels, which increase as the body’s fluid levels decrease. They found that even if your sodium levels sit within the ‘normal’ range, you could be at risk. Those with levels towards the upper limit of ‘normal’ had a 39% associated increased risk of developing heart failure compared to adults with a lower level of ‘normal’. We’re not talking about having serious dehydration or whopping levels of blood sodium here, but incremental increases.
Drinking a good amount of fluids is essential to help the heart pump blood efficiently, support blood vessel function and aid circulation. However, the researchers say that many people drink far less than they need. Women, they say, should be drinking eight cups of water a day and men need up to 12.
How to drink more fluids every day
You probably need more fluids if you’re very active, and it’s not always obvious when you’re dehydrated. By the time you feel tired or headachy, it’s too late. So, here are our tips for upping your fluid intake.
Remember that teas and coffees count
When we talk about fluid, we’re not just talking about water. The NHS says that tea, coffee, sugar-free drinks and low-fat milk all count towards your eight glasses a day. Just remember that caffeine can be a diuretic, so you don’t want to rely on coffee entirely for your fluid intake.
Keep your water bottle on your desk
Instead of letting it fester away in your bag all day, plonk your water bottle on your desk as you work and aim to refill it entirely at least twice.
Start the day with a glass of water
Many of us sleep with a glass of water next to us in case we need a sip during the night. When you wake up in the morning, finish that glass or refill to get the body rehydrated after its eight-hour fast.
Make rehydrating a priority after exercise
We lose fluids when we exercise and while you don’t always feel hungry or thirsty after moving, it’s important to replace the water we lose through sweat.
Habit-stack your fluid intake
If you tend to forget to drink during the day, habit-stack your water intake. Drink a full glass of water every time you go to brush your teeth or make a hot drink before every meeting. By pinning fluid intake onto an existing commitment, you’ll find that it soon becomes a habit.
For more nutrition tips, visit the Strong Women Training Club.
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.