Falling behind with your drinking?
We’re talking water here. And it’s an officer safety issue.
Just because we’ve traversed the ‘dog days of summer’ and are rapidly approaching the beginning of autumn doesn’t mean that the dangers of dehydration have passed. Cooler temperatures can lull you into a false sense that you’re not prone to dehydration dangers which were so obvious in July and August.
New research findings from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory confirm that even mild dehydration can have a significant impact on your vigilance, concentration, working memory, tension and anxiety levels, and degree of fatigue—all important elements in staying alert for threat cues and being capable of fast reactions on the street.
Although both sexes are affected, researchers report that females may be even more susceptible to the loss of water and salts essential for normal body function. And the adverse effects can occur whether you’re sitting at a computer or involved in heavy physical exertion. It’s all a matter of sufficient fluid intake.
UConn researchers led by international hydration expert Dr. Lawrence Armstrong tested two groups of young, healthy, and active volunteers: 25 women with an average age of 23 and 26 men averaging 20 years old. After walking treadmills in a warm room to induce water loss, the subjects were put through a series of cognitive tests measured by the study team. Outcomes were later compared to results obtained when the same participants remained well-hydrated via mineral water during their exercising.
The comparisons showed that even mild dehydration—as little as 1.5 percent loss in the body’s normal water volume, about the amount that may make you feel thirsty—had a significant impact on energy level and the ability to think clearly.
Specifically, the females especially tended to experience fatigue, confusion, and difficulty concentrating, while among the males “difficulty with mental tasks, particularly in the areas of vigilance and working memory,” was noted, along with increased fatigue, tension, and anxiety.
“Adverse changes in mood and symptoms were substantially greater in females than in males, both at rest and during exercise,” the researchers stated, although they could not explain why. In any case, performance notably suffered from dehydration in both genders.
Other university studies have found that dehydration also affects muscle strength, by as much as 10 percent to 20 percent. In addition, some researchers say that chronic improper hydration may also be related to depression.
You may think about drinking water only when you’re thirsty, but “our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are already one or two percent dehydrated—too late,” Armstrong explains. “By then dehydration is already starting to impact how our mind and body perform.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. You can usually reverse [or prevent] mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids.”
Daily Health News points out that “it’s easy to know when you’re really dehydrated—your mouth is parched, you’re likely overheated, and all you can think about is chugging a giant glass of ice-cold water. But knowing when you’re mildly dehydrated—far more common—is much harder, because the signs aren’t always as apparent.”
To stay properly hydrated, even if you’re largely sedentary, Armstrong recommends that you regularly drink about 2 liters of water—approximately eight 8-ounce glasses—during a normal day, “and not just during exercise, extreme heat, or exertion.”
With greater exposure to dehydrating circumstances, drink more and more often.
He says you can check your hydration status by monitoring the color of your urine. If you’re properly hydrated, it should be a “very pale yellow.” Dark yellow or tan suggests dehydration.
In the past, experts have cautioned that caffeinated drinks can contribute to dehydration. But researchers at UConn and the University of Nebraska Medical Center have concluded that water, caffeinated, and non-caffeinated drinks can all provide similar levels of hydration.
However, alcohol does tend to dehydrate the body because of its diuretic effects. Research has shown that the amount of water lost in urination is in direct correlation to the percentage of alcohol contained in what you drink. In short, the higher the alcohol content, the less hydration you’ll be able to maintain.
So, bottoms up with that water bottle! And stay safer.