Did you know that you're mostly made of water? If you're an adult female, you're about 55% water. Men are about 60% because they typically have more lean tissue (which contains more water) and women have more fatty tissue (which contains less water). Younger people have more (babies are born at about 78%) and older folks have less (about 50%).
Approximate percentages of water in various body parts:
- Blood 92%
- Lungs 83%
- Muscles and kidneys 79%
- Heart and brain 73%
- Skin 64%
- Bones 31%
Yes, even your bones are nearly one-third H2O. And yet two-thirds of us — nearly 70% — aren't drinking enough water to keep our bodies functioning properly. It doesn't take much to throw off the balance and become dehydrated. Don't let something as simple as drinking enough water send you to the ER — it's really not a story you'll look forward to telling around the water cooler.
When does dehydration occur?
- At just 1% dehydration, or when you've lost 1% of your body's water, mental performance and physical coordination start to become impaired — and you're not even thirsty yet
- At 2-3% dehydration, you'll feel thirsty and possibly some of these other symptoms:
- Fatigue, lethargy, fuzzy thinking
- Dry mouth and skin
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid pulse (100 beats/minute or higher)
- Fever and chills
Bryan Thibodeau, MD, ER medical director at Medical City Las Colinas, cautions parents to look for these signs of dehydration in infants and babies:
- Sunken fontanelle (soft spot on the head)
- Dry lips/tongue/mouth
- Crying without tears
- Pale or mottled skin
Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially for infants, children and older people. If someone you know shows signs of dehydration, seek immediate emergency medical treatment.
Why our bodies need water.
Besides being the primary building block for all cells, water is vital to the health of every system in our bodies. Among other important functions, water
- Regulates body temperature
- Transports nutrients and waste materials
- Aids digestion
- Cushions the brain and spinal cord
- Keeps eyes and mouths moist
- Lubricates joints
- Can prevent heartburn, constipation and kidney stones
- Manages heartbeat, blood pressure and electrolyte (sodium) balance
Did you know water can also help prevent heart attacks? A study at Loma Linda University found that dehydration thickens the blood, making it harder for the heart to pump and increasing the risk of blood clots. Study participants who drank just 40 ounces of water a day cut their risk for heart attacks by 54% for men and 41% for women.
How much water is enough?
The old advice to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is just that — a good starting point but outdated because it was never really accurate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there isn't a one-size-fits-all recommendation for daily water intake. How much you need depends on:
- How much you weigh (a larger person needs more water)
- Your activity level
- Your metabolism
- Your geographic location (people who live in hot, dry climates need more water)
- The weather
- Your diet (how much water are you getting from the foods you eat?)
- Your health (fever, vomiting, diarrhea and some medications and conditions can increase your water needs)
The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you drink enough water so that you're rarely thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow, you're probably doing fine. If you're always thirsty and your urine is dark yellow with a strong odor, you need to get chugging. If you just don't like water, try getting it in soups, smoothies and high-water content fruits and vegetables.
If someone in your family is feeling the effects of dehydration, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.