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Experts Reveal the Sneaky Symptoms of Dehydration You Might Be Missing + How to up Your Water Intake

Turns out menopause can increase your odds of dehydration

We know that maintaining proper hydration is crucial for overall health. But many of us overlook its significance until symptoms of dehydration sneak up on us. Water is essential for nearly every bodily function. It helps regulate your temperature, aids digestion and keeps your mind sharp and focused. So, what’s the best way to spot early warning signs of dehydration so you can keep it bay? We asked experts what to look for (including sneaky symptoms that are easy to overlook), plus how to boost your hydration levels fast.

What is dehydration?

“Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in, leading to an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes,” explains Dev Batra, MD, a Dual-Board Certified Vascular and Interventional Radiologist at Texas Vascular Institute. This hampers your body’s ability to carry out necessary functions.

“Dehydration can range from mild to severe,” adds Sarah Lynn Quick, MS, RDN, CDN, a Registered Dietician. “Mild dehydration may barely be noticeable, especially if you tend to be chronically dehydrated and become desensitized to the symptoms. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening.”

Common symptoms of dehydration

Dr. Batra says early symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased urination
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Severe dehydration, however, can lead to extreme thirst, lack of sweating, sunken eyes, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and fever. Sometimes, we chalk up signs of dehydration to stress, not realizing a lack of fluids is truly to blame. “Less talked about symptoms [of dehydration] may include headaches, irritability and poor concentration,” adds Dr. Batra.

What causes dehydration?

Sure, not drinking enough water (or eating enough water-rich foods) can cause dehydration. But there are other common risk factors, too. Dr. Batra says that includes excessive sweating, diarrhea, alcohol consumption, vomiting and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease.

What else can affect your hydration levels? Your age. “Older age is a risk factor for dehydration due to decreased thirst sensation, mobility issues affecting access to fluids, cognitive impairments, medication use and certain medical conditions,” says Quick. These include reduced kidney function, heart failure and dementia.

Quick adds that for women experiencing menopause, the risk may be higher. This is due to hormonal changes during menopause, which results in hot flashes and reduced estrogen levels. Women also have a “generally higher body fat percentage compared to men,” says Quick. “This can result in a lower baseline hydration level due to fat tissue containing less water than lean body tissue.”

How to treat symptoms of dehydration

Mature woman drinking a glass of water in bed after waking up to treat symptoms of dehydration

“To treat dehydration, it is essential to replenish lost fluids by drinking water, oral rehydration solutions or consuming hydrating foods such as fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Batra says. He also emphasizes lifestyle changes such as monitoring fluid intake, especially in hot weather or during physical activity, to help prevent dehydration.

“I recommend a minimum daily water intake of 64 ounces per day,” says Quick. However, the exact amount varies by individual. Below, she shares her tips for staying hydrated all day:

  • Set small goals. Try increasing your daily water intake by 4-8 oz. at a time (Learn more about how much water you should drink in a day.)
  • Drink in the AM. Sip a glass of water first thing in the morning to rehydrate after sleeping
  • Grab a bottle. Keep a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day so it’s easy to sip and go (An emotional support water bottle makes it easy!)
  • Add electrolytes. Drinking electrolytes can help regulate fluid balance. Quick recommends using Cure hydrating electrolyte mixes for a boost of flavor and more efficient hydration. (See how electrolytes can aid weight loss, too.)

Learn more about getting proper hydration:

How Much Water Should You Drink in a Day? A Doctor + Nutritionist Settle the Debate

Need to Drink More Water? The Trick May Be Using an Emotional Support Water Bottle

Why You Still Feel Dehydrated After Drinking Water All Day — and How to Fix It

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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