Water does a heart good

Proper hydration a necessity

By THE CHAUTAUQUA HEALTH ACTION TEAM

Conjure up a relaxing scene, and there is a good chance that scene involves waves breaking on the beach, a quiet stream deep in the woods, or the sun setting over one of our lakes. The most iconic images of relaxation all seem to involve water.

It’s a well-known fact that taking time to relax reduces the levels of stress-related chemicals and hormones in your body that can affect your heart health. The relaxing properties of water are, however, not the only way water affects our heart. How much water we drink directly affects our heart as well.

Your heart works 24/7, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood a day. The American Heart Association reminds us that dehydration, or not drinking enough water, can strain your heart. The amount of blood circulating through your body decreases when you are dehydrated. To compensate, your heart beats faster, increasing your heart rate and possibly causing you to feel palpitations.

In addition to stressing your cardiovascular system, dehydration can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke. By staying well-hydrated you are helping your heart do its job, and allowing other muscles and systems in your body to work even better.

So, how much water do you need? Thirst is not a good indicator, because if you feel thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. In general, a good guide is to pay attention to the color of your urine. It should be pale or clear-colored. If it is darker yellow, you need to drink more fluids.

Other situations call for drinking more water than usual. If you are exercising or doing other physical activities, you should be drinking more. Ditto for hot days or anytime you are exerting or sweating more than normal.

People with certain medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may need to drink more water. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as heart failure, may have different needs, so if you are not sure, please discuss your hydration needs with your healthcare provider.

Water really is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. Sports drinks are high in sugar and calories and your electrolyte replacement needs can be better met with plain water and a small healthy snack. Drinks like sodas, fruit drinks, sweet tea and coffee drinks and even fruit juices add a large number of empty calories, and some actually even dehydrate you. Water is your first and best choice.

Get yourself in the water habit this summer. From Point Gratiot to Long Point, and from Cassadaga Lake to the Chadakoin Riverwalk to Findley Lake and all the ponds, lakes, swamps and streams in between, there are plenty of opportunities to add water to your life. Just don’t forget that water bottle!

Chautauqua County has high rates of both heart attack and stroke, but an estimated 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes are preventable. CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team(CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease; it is not intended to replace advice provided by your healthcare team. Please direct questions or comments to: activecounty@co.chautauqua.ny.us.

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