As we approach Valentine’s Day 2018 and start to see hearts everywhere as a symbol of love, it is also a good time to consider your own heart and how you care for it. It’s true that having a family history of heart disease (an umbrella term including narrowed or blocked blood vessels, heart dysfunction, arrhythmia, or other vascular disorders) offers a predisposition for future cardiovascular problems. However, aside from having a congenital heart defect, the American Heart Association suggests that developing heart disease can be controlled or at least managed by a number of lifestyle factors and healthy choices. These factors, which we have control over, include: eating a balanced and nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, lowering daily stress, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking. One factor that is often times overlooked in maintaining good cardiovascular health is sufficient hydration.
It’s been theorized that the reason being dehydrated has such detrimental effects on cardiovascular health is that it negatively affects the consistency and thickness of blood. Most estimates suggest that blood plasma (the liquid part of blood) in humans is 92% water. Dehydration, however, can lead to an overall lower blood volume and a higher viscosity, meaning the ability of blood to flow easily through blood vessels is more difficult. Furthermore, as blood becomes thicker and blood volume drops, so does one’s blood pressure. As a result, the heart is required to work harder, pumping blood at a higher rate, to ensure there is enough blood being transported to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
To combat this phenomenon and reduce stress on your heart, drink more water! There is an old adage that says you should drink eight 8 oz. cups of water/day. Although this seems like an easy-to-remember goal and is a great starting point, one’s necessary water intake is truly based on the individual. Actually, drinking water should be a habit and it is recommended that your daily water intake (in ounces) be more or equal to half of your body weight (lbs.). For example, a 200 lb. male should be drinking no less than 100 ounces of water/day. To stay accountable, I’m a fan of keeping track of your water intake through journaling or using a mobile app that can remind you to drink water at set intervals throughout the day. If the taste of water seems too boring, try out these refreshing water-infusion recipe ideas found here:
Cheers to keeping your heart healthy!