April 5, 2023
Drink Up or Dry Out: How Dehydration is Secretly Aging You!
By: Leigh Saner, MPH, NBC-HWC
As much as we’d all like to believe that a lifetime supply of fancy serums, Botox injections, and daily meditation sessions can keep us looking youthful forever, the harsh reality is that there’s no magic potion for eternal youth. However, there is one simple thing you can do to slow down the aging process, and it doesn’t require a single penny spent or any awkward face-freezing procedures: drink water. That’s right, dehydration could be contributing to your crow’s feet and wrinkles more than you ever imagined. So grab a glass of H2O and let’s dive into how this sneaky culprit is secretly adding years to your skin.
Although we say we need to drink more water, research shows that many U.S. adults aren’t getting the recommended amount of water per day. Between 2015 and 2018, one study showed that U.S. adults drink an average of 44 ounces of water per day, compared to the recommended 125 ounces a day for men and 91 ounces a day for women. In more recent years, a study looking at mice suggested that dehydration can shorten the mouse lifespan and cause issues with organs working optimally.
Another study, looking at over 15,000 U.S. adults over the course of 25 years suggested that dehydration might be a risk factor for faster aging and chronic disease. Therefore, it’s important to understand how dehydration affects the body and how staying hydrated can promote overall health and well-being to help support us as we age.
What Happens When You Don't Drink Enough Water
When you lose more fluid than you have the ability to consume, dehydration occurs. The human body is made up of between 50 and 70 percent water. When your body doesn’t have enough fluids, it starts to impact your body’s normal functioning.
Common acute symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry Mouth
- Muscle Cramps
- Less Emotional/Mental Capacity
More severe dehydration symptoms also include:
- Abdominal Pain
When the body isn’t able to function properly, it has to work harder to maintain each of its bodily systems, placing more stress on the body and ultimately putting us at higher risk for health issues.
Health Benefits of Staying Hydrated
We need water in order for our body to function at its best. Drinking an adequate amount of water has several short term and longer lasting effects on overall health.
Improves Digestion: To break down and digest food properly, your body needs water. When you aren’t drinking enough water, you might experience more bloating, gas, and constipation. Drinking water while you are having a meal also helps the body absorb nutrients from the food you are consuming.
Decreases Joint Pain: When you drink an adequate amount of water and are well hydrated, water acts as a natural lubricant on the joints, helping cushion the joints. When you don’t drink enough water, there isn’t enough fluid between the joint and bone, which can lead to inflammation and discomfort.
Helps Regulate Body Temperature: Dehydration limits your body’s ability to regulate body temperature. By drinking enough water, your body has the ability to sweat, which helps cool the body down when it’s overheated. This natural cooling effect is an important tool in preventing things like heat stroke.
Improves Cognitive Function: As we age, it's important to support our overall cognitive functioning. Even slight dehydration can result in loss of focus, memory and reaction time. Staying well hydrated can have a positive impact on mood and concentration, keeping us mentally sharp.
Increases Energy: Dehydration causes your body to have to work harder to function normally, specifically in its efforts to circulate oxygen throughout the body and to the brain. With the body having to work harder, it expends more energy, causing you to feel more fatigued. By staying hydrated, your body doesn’t have to work as hard to circulate oxygen, giving you more sustained energy throughout the day.
Tips For How to Stay Hydrated
While we know how important it is to drink enough water, it can be challenging within busy schedules to remember to fill up a water bottle or have a glass of water with a meal. Here are a few suggestions on how you can drink more water.
Flavor The Water: Sometimes, it’s not as much about remembering to drink water as it is a dislike of the taste of water. Adding fruit to your water like lemons, limes or berries can add to the flavor and make it tastier.
Use A Reusable Water Bottle: Using a reusable water bottle can help you drink more water throughout the day. In today’s world, you can take a reusable water bottle almost anywhere, including on a flight, as long as it’s empty while you go through security. Having a water bottle with you can also serve as a visual reminder to drink more water throughout the day.
Slowly Replace Other Drinks With Water: If you are easing into drinking more water, and trying to cut back on drinking soda or sugary beverages, one suggestion is to replace a soda or other beverage with water. This strategy can have multiple benefits for your health, including staying hydrated and reducing sugar consumption.
Add It Into Your Routine: Research has shown that stacking habits together can increase the likelihood of maintaining those habits. When trying to drink more water, consider stacking that habit onto other things you are already doing like having breakfast or brushing your teeth.
As discussed above, laughing releases endorphins and impacts other chemicals, such as cortisol, in the body that help combat the negative impacts of long-term stress. When the body can regulate its cortisol levels, blood pressure improves. With laughing increasing the amount of oxygen rich blood in the body, laughing can also decrease your risk of having a heart attack.
Although more research is needed to look at the direct correlation between hydration and aging, there is some evidence showing dehydration has some kind of impact on the body as a whole, how it functions and aging. We also know that there is strong evidence supporting hydration as a best practice for maintaining optimal health.
So drinking enough water may not only be essential for staying alive, it could also be a key component of maintaining a youthful glow. If you’ve been neglecting your hydration needs, don’t worry - it’s never too late to start. And if you need a little extra motivation, just think of all the money you’ll save on anti-aging products once you start chugging that H2O. So, let’s raise a glass to healthy, hydrated skin. Cheers!