“If you are thinking, you are drinking…water of course!”

I refer to this saying in my Brain Fitness programs, because proper hydration is essential to your brain and body functioning. The moment your water tank gets low, it causes stress, along with a myriad of other health and cognitive issues. 

Most people know that drinking water is essential.  Just think of what happens to your plant when you forget to water it for a few days.  Yet research shows that about 75 percent of North Americans do not drink enough of it.

Why is this?  Most people are used to feeling sub-par with low energy and focusing difficulty. They don’t understand how much better they would feel if they were well-hydrated.

In an attempt to counteract fatigue, brain fog and irritability that inevitably comes with dehydration, people adopt bad habits such as excessive snacking, eating refined carbs and sugar, or overdoing caffeine consumption.

Unfortunately, these habits contribute to further dehydration and can lead to more health problems down the road. 

Your brain is an electrical unit. It needs to be properly hydrated on a daily basis, so you can experience the countless benefits of being ‘hydro-powered.’

Not all liquids are created equal.

Just because a beverage is a liquid, it does not mean it’s going to hydrate you! 

Even juices and herbal teas, while they have some water content, will not provide the same benefits that a glass of water will.  

How many people do you know who will readily choose a can of pop or a caffeinated drink over a bottle of water?

While fruit juices may be a healthier option, they also contain sugar which can lead to larger health concerns. 

Prior to Covid, statics showed that one in seven Canadian children are obese. This number has since risen due to pandemic stress, along with a lack of activity due to the restrictions.

These trends are leading to an increase in childhood health conditions, such as lung and heart complications, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.

So much of this could be avoided simply by drinking more water!

The Effects of a Dehydrated Brain

When your body and brain cells aren’t getting the water they need, they start to shrivel up and lose their ability to function optimally.

In fact, studies show that losing just one to two percent of your body’s total water mass can cause your brain to shrink, which significantly impairs cognitive function. Your brain has to work harder to perform the same daily tasks.

Over time, chronic dehydration can increase your risk for brain issues such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.  The reason is it causes protein misfolding and the formation of amyloid plaques inside your brain, which is the most well-recognized contributor to neurodegenerative disease. 

As well, your immune system requires water to wash away metabolic waste that accumulates throughout your day. It’s like trying to mop a dirty floor without water; it’s impossible! Your immune system can’t clear away the debris, plaque, and damaged cells without water either.

To top it off, going to bed dehydrated means your immune system doesn’t have the water it needs to do its many jobs correctly. Combine a lack of water with poor sleep quality, and your immune system has a hard time getting rid of built-up waste, which can eventually form cells that don’t divide but refuse to die.

These senescent cells, often referred to as ‘zombie cells’, emit protein signals that change the tissue around them.  They are complicit in conditions of aging, ranging from osteoporosis to diabetes and muscle weakness.

3 Healthy Hydration Habits

  1. Start each day off with two glasses of water to give your body what it needs to flush out the waste and toxins that accumulate overnight and provide you with a hydration buffer for the rest of your day. 
  • Pay attention to thirst cues such as dry mouth, lips, and skin as well as low energy and fatigue. Additionally, thirst receptors in our brains start to lose their sensitivity as we get older, so dehydration cues don’t register as effectively to let us know when it’s time for a drink. Older individuals tend to be more dehydrated, which is an under-recognized cause of hospitalization and death in the elderly. 
  • Muscle tissue is a water reservoir and is made of about 80 percent water, compared to fat tissue, which is about 10 percent water. Holding water in our muscles gives our body a backup source when availability might be low, like during sleep. Lean muscle mass helps protect against dehydration, makes us stronger, and lowers our risk of age-related bone fractures.  Therefore, ensure you are strength training several times a week with activities such as yoga, weightlifting, and resistance training.

You are the best judge of your hydration levels, and many factors influence hydration needs.

Just make sure you do it.  The reason is aging and dehydration are so closely connected that experts have difficulty pinpointing which one comes first: dehydration or dementia.

Thankfully hydration is in your control.  Cheers!

To Your Fit Brain & Fit Life,