Does Dehydration Affect Brain Health?

Cooleraid-Lilac • 02/07/2020

Your body must be hydrated to survive. We are made up of 60% water that is vital for us to perform a multitude of functions, including regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, carrying nutrients and oxygen to our cells. How important is water for brain health though? Today we will investigate the effect of dehydration on the brain and how best to feed and hydrate it for optimal cognitive health.  

Memory Loss 

Three areas of the brain are associated with memory: the hippocampus, neo-cortex and the amygdala. Unfortunately, as we all age our cognitive ability declines and these parts of the brain start to lose their mass. However, delaying the onset of this can be greatly aided by our diet. Studies have found that the functioning of our brain can be compromised by just a minor amount of dehydration. This greatly affects our memory, attention span and mood.  

Mood 

Mild dehydration can affect our emotional state and cause both men and women to experience irregularities in their mood. Studies have revealed that not consuming enough water can induce fatigue, headaches, and impair our ability to remain focused. Consequently, someone that is not hydrated will begin to become frustrated and irritated.  

Reduced Cognitive Function 

Cognitive losses in motor skills, visualisation, and alertness also result from dehydration. In addition, the ability to think coherently and respond effectively to a complex situation is reported to decrease significantly after long periods of dehydration. This is apparent in both adults and children but affects children more as their brain is growing and developing at a much faster rate.  

What Can We Do? 

These brain related health effects of dehydration highlight the importance of staying hydrated, not just for physical function but for our mental and emotional wellbeing.  

Ensuring that water is available is vital for optimal brain function and overall health. For people living in hot climates and engaging in sports regularly, this is of critical importance. The NHS recommends that people drink about 1.2 litres of fluid per day to prevent dehydration but recommends more if you are living in hotter climates.   

Tips for Hydration  

There are numerous ways you can ensure that your brain health is not compromised and that you stay hydrated throughout the day.  

  1. Always carry a water bottle with you so that when the sensation of thirst comes you will be able to simply top up at a refilling station and continue the day.  
  1. Set an alarm to remind you to stay hydrated! Doing so will prompt a healthy habit and encourage you to take breaks and recharge your brain. 
  1. Drink a glass of water in the morning is a big one. During the night, your body is going for hours without food or water while it rests. Make sure to hydrate the brain after a long night and start the day right.  
  1. Mix up your drinks with healthy ones such as fruited water, tea, and coffee to get extra vitamins and prevent a boring taste. 
  1. Eat foods that have water locked in them! Some foods such as watermelons are packed with water and are a great way to stay hydrated and have a snack. 
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