Though most of us know the importance of staying hydrated for our physical health, the impact of heat and dehydration on brain function is often overlooked. Dehydration can have very serious neurologic effects and disrupt cognitive functioning.
Even when we are not in the grips of a heat wave, many Americans are chronically dehydrated so it’s important to always be aware of possible negative effects and be sure to prioritize maintaining proper hydration.
Dehydration can have a negative impact important brain functions like short-term memory, visuomotor functioning and psychomotor functioning. This can impact things like the ability to focus on a computer screen or reading material, hand-eye coordination and concentration. In extreme cases of dehydration, delirium can ensue causing extreme confusion, inability to speak or think coherently, disorientation and hallucinations.
Here are some simple tips to stay smart and keep your brain in tip-top form during the heat of summer and all year round:
Use your own hydration meter
The research on rules of hydration can be confusing and contradictory. It’s important to remember that our hydration needs can vary dramatically day to day depending on our activity level, diet, the weather and many other factors. Following hard and fast rules like drinking 8 glasses of water a day doesn’t always address our actual individual needs. One simple and generally reliable way is to use your urine as a barometer of your hydration needs. If your urine is darker than a typical glass of fresh lemonade, you need to hydrate.
Use food as much as water and beverages
Water is not the only answer to hydration. In fact, too much water can potentially result in disruption of important electrolyte levels. Think in terms of hydration, rather than water. Focus just as much attention on food and other hydrating beverages as you do on water. Foods that have over 90% water content like grapefruit and watermelon also contain essential nutrients and electrolytes required to maintain proper hydration and optimal brain function. Beverages like coconut water and sports drinks containing electrolytes are effective and convenient ways to stay hydrated.