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Ten Tips For Maintaining Proper Hydration

The Nutrition Information Center at The New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center offers the following tips for maintaining proper hydration:
bullet Follow conventional wisdom -- drink at least eight, eight-ounce servings of water each day. The more time you spend outside, the more water you need to replenish lost fluids
bullet Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. By the time you feel thirsty, you probably have already lost two or more cups of your total body water.
bullet Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Convenience is a must, so carry a bottle of water with you as you commute to work, run errands or enjoy the day at the beach.
bullet Don’t substitute caffeinated coffees, teas and sodas for water. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing you to lose water through increased urination. Alcoholic beverages have a similar effect.
bullet If finding time to drink water is a problem, keep a bottle of water on your desk. Or visit the office water cooler and take water break rather than a coffee break.
bullet Once you start exercising, don’t stop drinking. Keep a bottle of water with you and take frequent water breaks.
bullet Don’t underestimate the amount of fluids lost from perspiration. You need to drink two cups of water for each pound lost following a workout.
bullet Start and end your day with a serving of water. Your body loses water while you sleep. So drink a serving before bed and again when you wake up.
bullet Don’t forget that common maladies such as colds and the flu can frequently lead to dehydration. Keep a large bottle of water next to your bed so you can sip it throughout the day without having to get up.
bullet Remember that when it’s warm outside, cold water -- not carbonated soft drinks or sport drinks -- is the best fluid for keeping hydrated. Cool water is absorbed much more quickly than warm fluids and may have a positive effect on cooling off your overheated body.

Survey Shows Americans May Be Drinking Themselves To Dehydration

(NEW YORK, May 11, 1998) A significant number of Americans may be drinking themselves to dehydration by consuming too little water and too may beverages that rob the body of water, according to the results of a national consumer survey released today.

The survey of 3,003 Americans, conducted by Yankelovich Partners for the Nutrition Information Center at The New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center and the International Bottled Water Association, reveals that America’s glass is half empty.

The good news is that the average American drinks nearly eight daily servings of hydrating beverages, such as water, milk, juice and decaffeinated soft drinks. But that is undermined by the nearly five servings of caffeine- or alcohol-containing beverages that respondents report drinking each day. Scientific research shows that caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics, causing the body to lose water through increased urination.

"The net result is that most Americans are probably only getting about a third of the valuable hydration benefits they need," says Barbara Levine, R.D.,Ph.D., Director of the Nutrition Information Center. "The vast majority aren’t drinking enough water to begin with, and, to make matters worse, many don'’t realize that beverages containing alcohol an caffeine actually rob the body of water."

Awareness of Water Needs is High, but Compliance is Low

While two out of three survey respondents say they know that health and nutrition experts recommend drinking eight, eight-ounce servings of water a day, one in two admits do not getting enough. In fact, the survey shows that the average American only consumes 4.6 servings of water a day.

Indeed, only one in five meets the "eight a day" recommendation. More than double that amount (44 percent) drink three or fewer servings of water daily. And nearly one in 10 (9 percent) report drinking no water at all.

"It’s troubling that so few Americans drink the recommended amount of water daily," notes Levine. "The consumption of water and other hydrating beverages is crucial for proper retention and use of the body’s water in complex and intricate biochemical processes."

Water comprises more than 70 percent of solid tissue such as muscle in the human body. Besides oxygen, it is the most important nutrient in the body, functioning as a physiological "jack of all trades." It has an important role in nearly every major function in the body, regulating body temperature, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, removing waste, cushioning joints, and protecting organs and tissues.

It is not surprising, then, that those survey respondents who say they drink eight or more servings of water a day are less likely to report experiencing the symptoms of dehydration than those who drink three or fewer glasses of water daily. Low-volume water drinkers, for example, are more likely to report having dry, itchy skin or feeling tired and groggy when they wake up or at mid-day, two classic signs of dehydration.

Levine notes that longer-term, more severe dehydration presents more serious problems, dangerously affecting blood pressure, circulation, digestion, kidney function and nearly all body processes.

Survey Reveals Hydration "Knowledge Gaps"

While survey respondents are widely aware of minor dehydration symptoms such as dry skin and headaches, they are less knowledgeable about the causes of dehydration. For example, one in five does not know that caffein dehydrates -- a key finding, considering that Americans down 4.1 daily servings of coffee, caffeinated sodas and tea.

Additionally, nearly half (47 percent) are unaware that the human body loses as much water when asleep as when awake, while more than a third (37 percent) do not know that the body needs as much water in cold weather as it does in warm weather.

One in 10 respondents say they wait until they are thirsty before drinking a beverage. They do not realize that thirst lags far behind the body’s need for water and does not adequately signal the body’s hydration needs.

"This look at America’s hydration habits suggests what could be a significant and widespread health concern," say Levine. "The survey clearly demonstrates the need for much more public education about the benefits of proper hydration and the problems even minor dehydration can cause."

The Nutrition Information Center is a component of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit, The New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the trade association representing 85 percent of the bottled water sold in the U.S. today. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and International bottlers and distributors. Additional members include manufacturers of bottled water equipment and supplies. Consumers can contact IBWA at 1-800-WATER-11 or log onto IBWA’s web site - for more information concerning bottled water and a list of members’ brands.

Critical Hot Weather Hydration Tips

With heat wave conditions predicted for an extended period, it’s important to drink plenty of water. Proper hydration is critical during heat waves, when loss of water due to extreme heat and humidity can be potentially life-threatening. Following are the facts about how the heat affects the body and water’ essential role in maintaining health.
bullet Extreme heat and humidity rob the body of water through perspiration and respiration. Here is what results:
bullet The body’s natural balance is disrupted, since water is responsible for dispersing nutrients throughout the body while expelling toxins.
bullet The body loses its natural energy, resulting in fatigue and sluggishness.
bullet The body loses vital electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, and chlorides. These electrolytes are critical to your body.
bullet On a normal day, the body loses about two quarts of water. In order to compensate for daily water loss, doctors and nutritionists recommend that a person drink between one-half and two-thirds of an ounce of water daily for every pound of body weight. The more active you are the closer to the two-thirds of an ounce you need. This means about 9 to 10 eight-ounce servings of water per day for an active person.
bullet During heat waves, people experience excess water loss. Health experts recommend drinking at least one additional quart of water per day to compensate for this loss.
bullet Everyone spending time outdoors should drink water -- before, during and after sun exposure.
bullet IMPORTANT REMINDER: Don’t rely on thirst alone to determine your body’s need for water.
bullet There are a number of groups that have higher risk complications associated with extreme heat. These include:
bullet People 65 and older, who have a decreased ability to respond to temperature changes, and therefore are more prone to dehydration. It’s crucial for older people to drink water even if they don’t feel thirsty.
bullet Infants and children up to four years of age, who are more sensitive to the effects of high temperatures and are too young to respond to their bodies’ needs. Parents must be aware of this and provide necessary fluids.
bullet Individuals who are overweight, ill, taking certain medications or tend to overexert during work or exercise.
bullet Here’s how to recognize and treat two common problems associated with extreme heat:
bullet Someone with an extremely high body temperature (above 103F), experiencing dizziness, and nausea may be suffering from Heat Stroke. Cool the individual off as fast as possible by giving water and seek medical assistance.
bullet The body’s response to excessive water and salt loss in sweat is known as Heat Exhaustion. Someone with Heat Exhaustion experiences heavy sweating, dizziness, and weakness. As with Heat Stroke, it is important to cool the victim as fast as possible.

Keeping Properly Hydrated Is Extremely Important In Above-Normal Temperatures

The National Weather Service predicts above-normal temperatures across much of the United States this summer. As the nation prepares for a hot summer, Felicia Busch, R.D.,M.P.H. and ambassador to the American Dietetic Association, offers the following "Do’s and Don’ts" for summer hydration.

bullet Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day to remain hydrated. Encourage your kids to do the same -- Active children lose 2 or more quarts of water daily so their bodies need to be continuously replenished.
bullet Drink 8-10 oz. of water every 15 minutes during a run or another 10-12 oz. immediately following your workout. An athlete can lose from 6-10 pounds, almost all of it water, during a 10K race in hot weather.
bullet Have your child take water breaks every 15-20 minutes while playing outside or participating in a sports activity. Get your kids in the habit of always carrying cold water in their beverage holder when they go for a bike ride.
bullet When packing your car for a weekend trip, don’t forget to include water in the cooler. Freeze a partially full bottle of water the night before a trip and fill it up with more bottled water before you leave and you’ll have instant chilled water all day long.
bullet Don’t overdo it. Take time throughout the day for a glass of water whether or not you feel you need it. If you wait until you feel thirsty, you’re already experiencing the signs of dehydration.
bullet Don’t substitute soda or juice as a proper beverage to prevent dehydration. Most sodas contain sugar and caffeine, which may speed up dehydration.
bullet Don’t drink surface water from lakes, rivers, or pools. This water is often untreated and could contain harmful contaminants.
bullet Don’t expect the coach or other adult supervisors to provide the beverages for your child.

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Revised: July 31, 2015.