Everyone has heard that the human body is comprised of roughly 60% water and proper hydration is needed to sustain life.
Water is the building block of life and helps with critical functions such as maintaining body temperature, cushioning and protecting vital organs and aiding in digestion. Therefore, it is vital that you try to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water (if you weigh 120 pounds, drink 60 ounces of water) each day.
Did you know that you can suffer serious health problems – or die – if you drink too much water?
I, like many people, have a difficult time drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Although, some athletes such as endurance runners may be at risk for hyponatremia, or dangerously low sodium levels in the blood, which can be caused by drinking too much water and consuming too few electrolytes during exercise.
According to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report, “At its worst, water intoxication may contribute to rhabdomyolysis (a potentially fatal condition in which muscle tissue breaks down and releases too much byproduct into the bloodstream for the kidneys to filter effectively), cerebral edema, seizures and cardiogenic shock.”
Additionally, the article explains, “Research also suggests that people with mental health conditions like depression and addictions may be prone to hyponatremia, in part due to their medications, excess water intake and stress levels. People with eating disorders, too, can over-consume water in an effort to suppress hunger or to hide their low weights from health care professionals during weigh-ins.”
Even people who appear to be healthy eaters may be drinking too much water. People are trying to control their weight by eating water-dense foods like fruits and vegetables and drinking water-based beverages like hot tea in addition to drinking water throughout the day.
Do you know the signs of hyponatremia? Symptoms can be absent, mild or severe.
According to Mayo Clinic, mild symptoms include:
- Decreased ability to think
- Short-term memory loss
- Poor balance
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramps
Severe symptoms include:
Chronic hyponatremia can lead to such complications as neurological impairments. These neurological impairments most often affect gait (walking) and attention, and can lead to increased reaction time and falls. Hyponatremia, by interfering with bone metabolism, has been linked with a doubled risk of osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fracture.
If you’re not sure if you’re getting the appropriate balance of liquids and electrolytes, consult a registered dietitian who can help you figure out what works best for your body.
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