Anyone who exercises is familiar with the importance of staying hydrated. And you probably know that working out has an impact on your cardiovascular system and blood pressure. But did you know blood volume, hydration and blood pressure are all connected?
How are hydration and blood pressure related, and what is the impact of hydration on your blood volume and blood pressure? Let’s dive into it and explore ways to maintain proper hydration.
What Are Blood Pressure and Blood Volume?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force your blood exerts on the walls of your cardiovascular system as it pumps through your body. Most of us are familiar with it thanks to that Velcro blood pressure cuff at the doctor’s office. When your blood pressure is too high, your heart is working harder than it should to keep blood flowing. On the other hand, low blood pressure means that vital organs might not be getting as much blood as they need to function properly.
Blood volume is a less commonly used metric, but it measures the total amount of blood in your body. For a typical adult, this will be five to six litres, but it increases and decreases throughout the day due to a variety of factors.
The two measurements are separate, but related, as blood volume directly affects blood pressure. If there’s more blood to pump, your heart needs to exert more pressure. Likewise, with less blood volume, blood pressure will drop.
How Does Hydration Affect Blood Pressure?
Blood volume is the direct link between hydration and blood pressure. Our kidneys regulate blood volume by adjusting the amount of water and salt filtered into urine. In a properly hydrated person, these levels stay within a relatively narrow range and blood volume doesn’t change much.
However, when you get dehydrated, your body has less water to work with, and blood volume decreases. This, in turn, causes blood pressure to drop, which leaves various organs without the normal amount of oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly.
During exercise, this creates a vicious feedback loop. You’re making your body work harder than usual, while at the same time depriving it of the fluids it needs for optimal performance. Additionally, the lower blood pressure means you’re not getting enough blood-borne oxygen into your organs.
While the early stages of dehydration are only mildly uncomfortable, it’s easy to see how it can cascade towards more serious consequences if you don’t rehydrate.
What Happens When Your Body Is Dehydrated?
Water makes up approximately 60% of the human body. It’s no surprise, then, that proper hydration is a key factor in how nearly every organ and system functions. Water lubricates your joints and eyes, plays a big part in digestion, helps flush out toxins, and even contributes to skin health.
When you become dehydrated, the normal ratios of various minerals such as salts and sugars in your body get out of balance. This, in turn, affects how your body functions, which makes it easy to tell when you’re dehydrated.
Common symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dark-coloured or strong smelling urine
- Less frequent urination
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
How to Hydrate Properly to Regulate Blood Pressure
Staying hydrated is a critical building block of maintaining peak performance. Whether you’re training for a race or just hitting the trails on the weekend, proper hydration will keep your blood pressure where it should be and make sure you get the most out of your workout.
Here are a few ways to make sure you’re getting enough fluids:
- Listen to your body. A variety of factors — weight, elevation, temperature, activity level, and even how much you sweat — affect how much water you should drink.
- Use both food and drinks for hydration. Foods that are rich in both water and nutrients, like oranges, are a great way to fuel up and stay hydrated.
- Hydration is a marathon, not a sprint. Drip-feed your body with regular and consistent drinks from a CamelBak Crux reservoir to maintain a steady hydration level.
- Maintain a healthy electrolyte balance. Electrolytes help maintain vital body functions. As you sweat, you lose valuable minerals, and water alone won’t entirely replenish them.
Most importantly, don’t think of hydration as something you only need to worry about when you’re exercising. Follow these daily hydration and wellness tips to keep your body hydrated and your blood pressure at a healthy level.