Seeing a headline about the importance of hydration often inspires eye-rolling, turning the page or clicking to another story. But wait. Please stay with us. Many people need to be reminded, gently nudged or constantly nagged – especially during the hot summer months.
"With the higher temperatures, people are at higher risk for heat-related illness, which occurs when your body can't keep itself cool," said Dr. Mark Shalauta, a family medicine doctor with Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo. "Your body gets rid of heat by sweating. Hotter temperatures and higher humidity slow down that process. If your temperature starts to rise, you can become ill."
Water helps the body keep your temperature normal, lubricate joints, protect your spinal cord and get rid of waste.
The American Heart Association emphasizes that keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood to your muscles, which helps them work efficiently.
For those who consider vanity a strong motivator – and who doesn't? – drinking the right amount of water helps the skin look good, regulates your weight and slows the aging process.
The bad effects of dehydration should also be motivators. Mild dehydration can cause headaches, dry mouth, fatigue and urinary-tract infections, Dr. Shatauta noted.
"If you're severely dehydrated, you can have kidney failure," he added. "Your cognition and thought processes are affected. If it's severe, it can happen pretty fast."
How much is enough?
How much fluid a person should consume daily through food and liquid depends on the individual. A general, one-size-fits-all guideline is 3.7 liters (more than 15 cups) for men and 2.7 liters (almost 111/2 cups) for women.
Taking into account different body sizes, some suggest calculating how much water to drink by dividing your body weight in half and drinking that many ounces daily. Other factors also come into play, including the daily temperature and a person's overall health and exercise regimen.
It's good to figure out how much your personal fluid intake should be. Forget the "eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day" adage. Although it's easy to remember, it's quite a bit under most people's hydration needs.
And while you may think it's enough to drink when you're thirsty, think again.
"By the time you're thirsty, you are already behind the eight ball," Shalauta said. "If you're in an air-conditioned office, it's no big deal. But if you're outside, you don't want to wait until you're thirsty. If you're doing outdoor work like construction or if you're exercising outside, you want to hydrate while you're doing it.
"A lot of people think they're hungry, when they are actually dehydrated. I tell my patients to first drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. Sometimes hunger can masquerade as mild dehydration."
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control released statistics from a National Health and Examination Survey taken from 2009 to 2012. Among U.S. adults, it noted, the fluid intake was about where it should be. But when broken down, the statistics revealed that women and men over 60 drink less than younger adults. And Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks consume less than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.
The people in these groups need to step up to the glass, especially during these hot summer months. Even those who may be taking in enough fluids need to examine exactly what they're consuming. There's a lot more to water than meets the eye.
Wood is a San Diego freelance writer.
Water, pure and simple
–Make your primary daily drink filtered water. Whenever possible, avoid bottled water, which is unregulated. Some of it is just bottled tap water without extra purification. Also, those plastic bottles are a big contributor to littering our planet. And bottled water is more damaging to your budget than filtering your tap water at home.
–If filtered water tastes boring to you, add citrus, cucumbers or an herb like basil or mint. That can help make it more appealing.
Eat your hydration
–From soup broth and healthy smoothies to a peach or slice of watermelon, food provides fluids plus needed nutrition.
Fruits with high-water content
–Top of the list: watermelon, strawberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe, peaches, pineapple
Vegetables with high-water content
–Top of the list: cucumbers, leafy greens, radishes, celery, zucchini, tomatoes
Unhealthy ways to hydrate
–Soda and diet soda: The ill-effects of naturally and artificially sweetened sodas outweigh the hydrating benefits.
–Flavored waters: They are also hydrating, but such drinks as coconut and watermelon waters contain citric and other acids that can eventually dissolve tooth enamel.
–Energy drinks: Packed with caffeine, sugars or artificial sweeteners, they can damage your teeth, and consuming too many can cause irritability and anxiety.
–Elective IV therapy: Fairly new on the scene, some say intense exercisers or hangover sufferers get relief (electrolytes and vitamins) intravenously, but medical professionals say it's potentially hazardous.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control, American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, Dr. Mark Shalauta of Scripps Clinic.
How to stay hydrated
–Sip water through the day (rather than glugging a large amount all at once).
–Use freezer-safe water bottles to have cold water with you through the day.
–If you're having coffee (a diuretic), drink equal amounts of water.
–Stay inside during the hotter hours of the day.
–Save money and your teeth by flavoring your own water with fruit, herbs and/or vegetables.
–Avoid processed foods, which contain a lot of sodium.
–Read the labels of the drink products you buy and choose the healthiest.
–Check your urine. If it's pale yellow, you're good. If it's darker, you're dehydrated.