As news reports have shared, many parts of Europe are experiencing unusually high temperatures and heatwaves from 81F in early June, which are expected to continue throughout the months of August. The UK has hit its all-time high of 104.54 F, as well as a record high in the Netherlands. These temperatures have caused wildfires in France, Portugal, Spain and Greece as well as raising concerns about a number of health conditions that have affected thousands of Europeans. These concerns include dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, cardiovascular complications and more.
Experts are working to address these concerns as rising temperatures pose a health risk to natives, especially workers who work outside daily. A construction worker wears a safety helmet, which reduces the body’s ability to release heat. This is just one example of the difficulties caused by high temperatures. Excessive heat exposure can damage internal organs such as the heart and lungs, leading to a number of diseases and an increased risk of death. So, what can we do to prevent these conditions from progressing as we grapple with these difficult temperatures? Check out the list below:
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. This can lead to disturbances in the balance of minerals in the body. Since the body is made up of more than 60% water, it is important to re-hydrate to maintain body temperature as it perspires. As the body gradually loses fluid, the blood becomes more concentrated, placing additional pressure on the cardiovascular system to pump blood. This higher blood concentration causes the kidneys to retain more water, reducing urination. To retain water, the body draws fluid from brain tissue, which negatively affects overall cell function. As you can see hydration plays a fundamental role in ensuring health and wellness.
How much water is enough?
The best way to make sure you are meeting your water needs is to drink water consistently throughout the day. Having a water bottle readily available will make this easier while working out or doing any strenuous exercise. 8 ounces of water 8 times a day is a great start. Also, continue to drink fluids as you sweat or you exercise. It is important to remember that as you sweat to keep your core body temperature down, water is being lost and must be replaced.
The human body needs electrolytes to function properly. These can be obtained from foods or beverages. These electrolytes are important for maintaining the alkalinity of the pH level in the blood. In addition, regulating fluid levels in the human body, transmitting signals from nerves, muscles, and cells throughout the body, building tissue and clotting blood, and contracting muscles. The human body loses electrolytes in a variety of ways, however, primarily through dehydration. When dehydrated, you may be prone to headaches, irritability, heart palpitations and fatigue.
What is a good source of electrolytes?
Electrolytes can be found in unsweetened coconut water, bananas, dairy products, watermelon and avocados. An easy way to prevent dehydration in addition to water is to include yogurt or 1 cup of chopped watermelon in your day, or have a banana as a snack. One banana contains 422 mg of potassium which ultimately helps in regulating muscle mass and blood pressure. Simple and efficient!
Water isn’t the only thing that will help with hydration, food itself can do it too! Eating a well-balanced diet will ensure that energy needs are being met as well as increase nutrient-dense fluids. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains will provide enough vitamins and minerals to support daily functioning and give the body the energy it needs to function properly. Limiting coffee, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks will help your body retain the fluids it’s replenished because these fluids act as diuretics, flushing water out of the body.
How much should I eat?
3 well balanced meals followed by 2-3 snacks will meet the energy needs of the body. Also, give you a chance to rest and digest before continuing with the previous activity.
Though we cannot control the weather, but we can give the body the best chance to survive the scorching heat in these coming weeks. Hydration is an important part of survival and can be maintained through fluids, electrolytes, and nutrition. Dehydration can be fatal and cause unwanted symptoms. Limit stress as much as possible, replenish fluids hourly, give yourself the opportunity to rest and consume foods high in vitamins and minerals, and monitor your electrolytes throughout the day with electrolyte-rich drinks and snacks. Do it. Don’t forget to support your body every day while fighting the heat.