Water makes up between 60 and 70% of our total body weight and is essential for many of the biological processes which take place. But can drinking water really improve the health of your heart?
The heart is responsible for pumping blood around the body, delivering vital nutrients and oxygen to cells, muscles and organs. However, if you haven’t drunk enough water, then your heart must work harder to pump blood, mainly because blood volume drops when we are dehydrated. Therefore, drinking good amounts of water throughout the day will help to reduce the strain being put on your heart.
What about blood pressure?
Some research has shown that water increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, the system which is often referred to as fight or flight. This may be important for individuals who have lost their baroreflexes, the system responsible for keeping blood pressure within normal parameters. If these are lost, it can lead to episodes of fainting.
However, it is important to listen to the advice of your doctor if you have an existing health condition. For example, some people who have heart failure are advised by their doctor to limit their fluid intake, so it’s important to listen to their advice and guidance.
Just like most liquids, water can dilute blood. Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water helps to keep the viscosity of the blood low. If the blood is very viscous then this is a strong predictor of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and blood clots.
If we don’t drink enough water, then we are at risk of our blood congealing and solidifying, causing blood clots. If the blood is thick, the heart must work harder to pump the blood around the body.
It’s especially important to drink plenty of water if you are going to be sitting for long periods of time such as on a long-haul flight. In this case, we are more at risk of developing DVT (deep vein thrombosis), a blood clot which develops in a vein such as in the leg.
If you are going on a long-haul flight, make sure you:
· Drink plenty of water
· Avoid drinking lots of alcohol because this has a dehydrating effect
· Carry out some simple leg exercises like flexing your ankles and wiggling your toes
· Take short walks when you can
· Try to avoid sleeping tablets because these can make you immobile
· Wear elastic compression stockings
Dehydration puts pressure on your heart and the best way to prevent it is to drink regularly throughout the day. When you are dehydrated the volume of blood decreases and so the heart beats faster to try to compensate. Therefore, drinking water is essential for the health of your heart and circulatory system.