Maintaining a healthy hydration level is one of the simplest and most important ways you can keep yourself healthy. The opposite is also true — not getting enough water can be extremely dangerous. This becomes concerning when you see that most studies find that many Americans aren’t getting enough hydration, from 44 percent to 77 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found that seniors are even less likely to get enough water in a day.

If you’re among those that fall into that category, your next question becomes obvious. How much water is enough? The answer is incredibly simple, but also complex. The simple answer is that using your thirst as a guide, you’ll most likely get enough hydration in a day. When you’re thirsty, drink until you’re satisfied. No more, no less. If you’re the type of person who likes to have a number to aim for, it becomes more complicated. Depending on your activity level, your size, your age — to name a few factors — your necessary consumption of liquids may change. Generally, 2.7 liters and 3.7 liters for women and men respectively, are safe targets to shoot for. With those levels in mind, why is it so important that we stay hydrated?

Avoid Dehydration

Hydration is central to many important functions in our bodies, so when we don’t have enough, everything starts to go a little wonky. From our nervous system, to our muscles, and to our hearts, water is essential for a healthy functioning you. Healthy hydration levels are also important to maintaining your body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. A lack of proper hydration can become dangerous, since it can cause our bodies to shut down due to dehydration.

From our nervous system, to our muscles, and to our hearts, water is essential for a healthy functioning you.

Since water and hydration are so important to our bodies, the signs of dehydration are equally widespread. Thirst is very common, along with dry or sticky mouth. Less frequent urination or a dark yellow urine are also signs of dehydration. Headaches and muscle cramps are also regular symptoms in mild dehydration. In severe dehydration, you see more serious symptoms, like dizziness, confusion, nausea, and vomiting. You may also experience rapid heartbeat or breathing or even fainting. If the dehydration isn’t addressed, it can become fatal.

Lose Weight

Drinking water and other liquids isn’t only about quenching your thirst and maintaining your health. Proper hydration can also be influential in losing weight. How? The most direct way is by curbing your snacking. Water fills you up, and if you’re craving a snack, drinking water instead can cut unnecessary calories from your diet. At the same time, a lot of the time, when we feel peckish, we’re actually thirsty and a zero-calorie cup of water can do the trick. Finally, drinking a glass of water before dinner can help you from overeating by making you feel fuller.

A lot of the time, when we feel peckish, we’re actually thirsty and a zero-calorie cup of water can do the trick.

But, there’s another, more scientific way that hydration can help you lose weight. Water has been found to induce thermogenesis, the process that warm-blooded animals use to create body heat. We discussed this in “How Spicy Food is Your Diet’s Secret Weapon” if you want to learn more. Long story short, thermogenesis burns calories. These studies found that drinking as little as 500 milliliters of water can lead to a 24 to 30 percent rise in our metabolic rates, which means you burn more calories.

Other Health Benefits

Drinking water and hydrating can influence other aspects of our bodies, as well. For one, proper hydration can improve your complexion, ensuring your skin is healthy. If you’re even slightly dehydrated, your skin may appear dry, flakey, or tight. Drinking liquids can also help you avoid certain illness and conditions. For example, proper hydration has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease or heat stroke.

Proper hydration has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease or heat stroke.

In less severe instances, hydration may also help prevent or relieve constipation. Finally, hydration is essential to healthily functioning kidneys. Dehydration has been linked with both kidney stones and urinary tract infections, so staying hydrated can help prevent dehydration-caused instances of these conditions.

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Ultimately, staying hydrated is essential to our health, and as long as your drinking a healthy amount, there’s no downside to drinking water. While some drinks, like soda, may be calorie-laden, you have many healthy alternatives and ways to make sure you’re getting the fluid your body needs. With that in mind, there’s no reason not to drink up!

Further Reading

Harvard Health Publishing — The importance of staying hydrated