A Cardiologist’s Advice on Staying Cool in the Sweltering South
By Kevin A. Courville, MD, FACC, FHFSA
Tired of the heat, yet? Me too. Unfortunately, the soaring temperatures and high humidity that we have been experiencing are only the preludes to several more weeks of wicked heat as summer continues. It’s important to stay hydrated, so understanding the importance of adequate hydration, how to rehydrate and knowing some tips when taking certain medications are topics of this discussion.
Our bodies have a huge requirement for adequate water balance. Literally, every cell in the body relies on water to function properly. To stay adequately hydrated, it is suggested that the average adult drink between 6 and 8 cups (8 oz cups or 240 ml) each day. It is certainly possible to drink less water if you are able to consume enough water through various foods such as melons, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and gazpacho.
Sports drinks are an acceptable way to hydrate as well. Water will adequately hydrate the average guy or gal performing 30-60 minutes of exercise. With more intense exercise or longer duration, then the use of sports drinks, water with electrolytes, milk or protein drinks are the preferred way to maintain adequate hydration.
Avoid drinks that have a large amount of caffeine in them as this may stimulate your kidneys to get rid of more water and thus leave you dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include the obvious ones like extreme thirst, little urine output or dark urine and lightheadedness. The less obvious clues of dehydration may include fatigue, sleepiness, headache, and confusion.
Should you experience any signs of dehydration, adequate replacement of water and vital nutrients must begin at once. Fluid taken into the body by mouth is not necessarily rapidly absorbed by the gut. The speed of this necessary absorption is largely determined by the makeup of the fluid. Therefore, fluids containing electrolytes like sodium and carbohydrates, such as sugars, are more rapidly absorbed and are preferred. Sport drinks, electrolyte-containing water, and decaffeinated teas are good choices.
The best fluid of all you ask? Milk… Yes, milk, especially skim milk which was cited in a study on the topic in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016. Water can suffice, but at least you are now armed with the information that allows for maximal effect should it be needed. An important point to make for those of you who take medications such as diuretics, either alone or in combination tablets, is to adjust your water intake if you are in any of the following situations: extreme heat; vigorous work or exercise; during times of illness where your intake may be decreased. Taking too much diuretic when you are not eating and drinking well, vomiting or having diarrhea can lead to dehydration and should yield a call to your healthcare provider for guidance.
So, go on…enjoy the remainder of your summer! Just do so carefully and be mindful of hydration. Begin the hydration process by drinking before, during and after your planned activities. Shake it up a little by adding fruit slices to your water. It will improve the taste and add vitamins and nutrients to the body.
Please go out there and help those in need. Perform some random act of kindness today. You will be glad you did. God Bless!
Dr. Kevin A Courville, MD is a Doctor located in Lafayette, LA, with other offices in Lafayette, LA, and Eunice, LA. His specialties include Cardiovascular Disease and Nuclear Cardiology.