Dehydration is a pervasive health issue. According to the media, about 75% of Americans may be chronically dehydrated, consuming less than the Institute of Medicine-recommended daily intake of 13 cups, or 3 liters, of water.
This comes as a surprise as people are well aware of the importance of water for man’s survival. The human body is composed of 60% water, and without it, humans can’t survive for three days, on average. This universal solvent is highly present in the brain at 85% composition, while muscles comprise of 75% water. That being said, water intake is similar to oiling a machine; it facilitates vital functions and promotes optimal performance.
There are various reasons why people become dehydrated. Apart from skipping water for other beverages, such as soda, coffee, and tea, some suffer from illnesses or simply don’t have adequate access to it.
You don’t need any convincing about water’s importance for proper body functioning. But, you may need to be warned about the dangers of being chronically and severely dehydrated. Here’s a rundown of the dangers of dehydration:
Mild To Moderate Dehydration May Cause A Host of Problems
Minor cases of dehydration may cause or contribute to the following conditions:
- Muscle cramps
- Formation of kidney stones and other urinary problems
- Formation of gall stones
- Complications to your joints
Prolonged dehydration may contribute to the chronic issues with the body’s internal organ, such as kidneys, heart, and brain. Besides lack of access to water, dehydration may be exacerbated by other factors, such as winter exercise, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and diabetes.
Seizures may be triggered by an imbalance of electrolytes in the human body. Electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, work by transporting electrical signals to the cells. Without enough water, this process may be disrupted, leading to muscle contractions or seizures.
Urinary And Kidney Problems
Lack of fluids facilitates easy access and accumulation of bacteria in the urinary tract, and this may lead to problems, such a urinary tract infection (UTI) or the formation of kidney stones.
Kidney stone formation is set off by a confluence of these factors: poor diet, excess body weight, and dehydration. When diagnosed early, patients are often advised to increase their water intake to make it easier to pass stones. Meanwhile, a study has validated that water is essential in preventing UTI and other related conditions.
Unfortunately, these types of diseases often go undiagnosed unless they progress to a chronic state. These conditions may lead to more serious problems that include renal damage or renal failure.
Worsens Heat Injuries
Heat-related illnesses may become serious if compounded by dehydration. Without proper hydration, an individual exposed to scorching environments may fall into heat cramps, which may be made worse by heat exhaustion, and, eventually, heat stroke.
With dehydration, heat cramps may occur at a faster rate, as the body loses its ability to cool itself. And, heat stroke, as the most serious form of heat-related illness, may cause damage to the brain and other internal organs, and, in worst cases, may lead to death.
Low Blood Volume Shock
A life-threatening condition, low blood volume shock happens when your body fails to get adequate hydration. Losing more than 20% of the body’s fluid supply makes one susceptible to this condition, which is also called hypovolemic shock.
Losing volume, your blood also forces your blood pressure to drastically drop, along with the supply of oxygen going in and around your body. With not enough blood and oxygen, your body may go into a shock, which may also lead to organ failure.
Dehydration may result in a neurological complication called cerebral edema, or brain swelling in layman’s term.
This serious condition may occur when your body rehydrates too quickly and too much. As the fluid enters your system, the body attempts to pull too much water back into your cells. The large influx of water may cause some cells to swell and eventually rupture, causing cerebral edema. Experts suggest to drink fluids intermittently throughout the day to prevent this from happening.
Chronic and severe dehydration, if left unaddressed, may cause serious complications. As earlier mentioned, more than half of your body’s total weight is comprised of water. Additionally, almost all of your body’s processes require fluids to function properly. Few of the conditions mentioned earlier, such as heat-related illnesses, hypovolemic shock, and cerebral edema, may be fatal.
In the US, the Supreme Court and the medical community have acknowledged a patient’s right to refuse medical treatment, including food and water, as a means to die with dignity.
Adequate hydration can facilitate optimal performance and may help prevent the development of serious health problems. If you’re often exposed to severe heat, vigorous physical movements or exercise, or are currently ill, prevent dehydration by taking fluids all throughout the day.