Water is essential for human life. Dehydration is a common condition that occurs when there isn’t enough fluid in the body. Low body water can be caused by not drinking enough fluids or by losing fluids from the body faster than they can be replaced.
Dehydration may cause other conditions, such as low or high blood pressure, and can further complicate existing medical conditions, such as kidney disease.
- Dehydration is a common condition affecting 75% of Americans and a frequent cause of hospitalizations.
- Dehydration affects blood pressure and often does not present with symptoms.
- Dehydration may increase the risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney stones.
Dehydration is a condition that describes the absence of enough water in the body. It is reported that 75% of the adult American population is chronically dehydrated.
The human body is made up of at least 78% water. The muscles and kidneys are 79% water, while the heart is 73% water.
- Regulating body temperature
- Aiding in digestion and removing waste products
- Balancing the body’s chemicals
- Lubricating the joints and cushioning the bones
- Producing saliva
- Delivering oxygen throughout the body
- Acting as a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord, and fetus if you’re pregnant
When you don’t consume enough water, or your body loses water too quickly through sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting, you can become dehydrated. Other causes of dehydration include:
- Certain medications, such as diuretics
- Water loss from the skin due to fever, burns, heat, exercise, severe skin diseases
- Failure to replace lost fluids
- Not drinking enough daily water or fluids
- Urinating too much due to illness or certain medications
Anyone can become dehydrated, but children and infants are at an increased risk as they may be unable to tell anyone they are thirsty; this is especially true for sick children.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Low blood pressure (hypotension) with a high heart rate
- Dark-colored urine that has a strong smell
Complications of severe dehydration can include:
- Kidney complications, such as kidney failure and kidney stones
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Heatstroke and other heart-related conditions
- Shock, coma, and even fatality
Mild dehydration can be treated by drinking more water and by mixing oral rehydration packets with your water. Moderate dehydration treatment requires an IV drip, where fluids are added to your body through the vein. Severe hydration requires emergency treatment.
Blood Pressure Overview
Blood pressure is the force of blood on the artery walls. Each time the heart beats, it pumps oxygen-rich blood into the arteries. The arteries then carry the oxygen and nutrient-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Blood pressure typically rises and falls throughout the day.
High blood pressure typically does not have any symptoms, but it is a significant risk factor for diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Chronic high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” as, without warning, it can damage the heart, brain, and kidneys.
Without treatment, high blood pressure can cause:
- Kidney disease
- Heart attack
Low blood pressure occurs when there is a decrease in blood volume, and blood is not able to move around the body to tissues and organs efficiently. Very low blood pressure, or hypotension, is typically considered a problem when symptoms present, such as:
- Blurred vision
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Heart palpitations
Complications of hypotension can include shock, heart conditions or stroke, and injuries from falling due to fainting or dizziness.
Blood Pressure and pulse
Both pulse (heart rate) and blood pressure have something to do with the heart. However, they are two different things. Pulse (heart rate) is the number of times that the heart beats per minute, while blood pressure is the force that blood travels through the arteries.
An increase in pulse does not mean that the blood pressure has increased. The only way to determine blood pressure is to measure it with a blood pressure cuff and gauge.
How Does Dehydration Affect Blood Pressure and Pulse?
Dehydration and blood pressure
As the blood in the body is made up of mostly water, dehydration can lead to changes in blood pressure, causing both high and low blood pressure. The loss of fluid in the body (hypohydration), including blood volume, can lead to low blood pressure. This means that the body, its organs, and tissues may not get the oxygen and nutrients needed to function correctly.
When blood pressure drops to low levels, the body has mechanisms in place to stabilize blood pressure levels. In some cases, the body can overcorrect.
Dehydration typically causes sodium levels in the blood to rise. The body responds by releasing a hormone called vasopressin, which stimulates the body to retain water. High concentrations of vasopressin also cause the blood vessels to constrict or become narrower, resulting in rising blood pressure. This rise in blood pressure can become a concern for people who have hypertension.
Dehydration and pulse
Dehydration places strain on the heart as the blood volume circulating through the body decreases. This results in the heart compensating for low blood volume by beating faster, and the heart rate (pulse) increases.
Can Dehydration and Blood Pressure Affect the Kidneys?
Dehydration can affect the kidneys. This is because water helps the kidneys remove waste products from the blood via the urine. Water also plays a role in keeping the blood vessels open so that nutrient-dense blood can flow into the kidneys.
If someone becomes dehydrated, the lack of water makes it more difficult for this system to work properly. Mild dehydration starts to impair normal body functions, while severe dehydration can result in the kidneys becoming damaged.
Dehydration causes waste products and toxins to build up in the body, placing additional strain and damaging the kidneys. Dehydration can also increase the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and the formation of kidney stones. If not treated appropriately, both these conditions can lead to kidney damage.
How Much Water Should You Consume Everyday?
The most effective way to avoid blood pressure and pulse issues related to hydration is to make sure that you are consuming enough water and other fluids every day.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends the following baseline for total daily water (water in food and liquids) intake:
91 ounces (2.7 liters) for women
125 ounces (3.7 liters) for men
Total water intake may need to be increased due to factors such as prolonged physical activity, climate, etc.
Panoramic Health is the leading integrated provider group in kidney care in the United States. As an integrated provider group, we are positioned to understand the needs of both providers and patients. Therefore, we are able to deliver better outcomes for patients at reduced costs for everyone.