Drinking too little alcohol? Coffee? Juice? No, we’re talking about just plain ol’ water. Drinking too little water leads to dehydration which can trigger an Atrial Fibrillation episode, and raises the risk for blood clots (it makes the blood less viscous).
Hydration Affects the Function of Your Heart
Your body contains significant amounts of water. A change in fluid levels in your body can affect a number of bodily functions, including heart function. When you have atrial fibrillation, drinking enough water is important.
When you’re dehydrated, your body’s electrolytes (electrolytes in general, and sodium and potassium in particular) are crucial for heart health. Electrolyte levels plummet when you’re dehydrated. This can lead to abnormal heart rhythm.
Dehydration Risk Factors
Your risk of dehydration isn’t just from sweating during exercise or from the extreme heat of summer. Other risks include high altitudes, the desert, exhaustion and increased stress, missing meals or a change in eating patterns and vomiting or diarrhea.
Do you travel by plane often? Flying dehydrates you because the humidity level on a plane is usually less than 10%. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks also dry you out.
Cold weather can also dehydrate you. When it’s cold, the body works to maintain its core temperature, and works less to keep ideal fluid balance. And since you don’t feel thirsty when it’s cold, you often don’t think about drinking extra water.
The Good News, The Bad News
The good news is that usually dehydration on its own won’t cause an A-Fib episode. The bad news, when combined with other well known triggers, it will.
For example, you risk dehydration when traveling by air (low humidity) during the hectic holidays (tired and stressed), drinking too much coffee (diuretic effect), and vacationing in the desert (dry climate).
Under normal conditions, 64 to 80 ounces of water per day is considered enough. On a plane, a good rule of thumb is 6 to 12 ounces of water (or club soda) for every hour in the air.
Be aware of the not-so-obvious signs of dehydration: dry mouth, constipation, feeling tired and sleepy, low urine output, dry skin and dizziness or lightheadedness. Furthermore, your body may misinterpret the need for water as the need for food making you feel hungry, when what you really need is more water.
Drink more water when… the weather is too hot or too cold, when traveling by plane, when you’ve skipped meals, when exhausted or you’re sick. For each coffee or alcohol beverage, have a glass or two of water.
Check your hydration level. Each body has individual needs for water intake. If you’re drinking enough, look at the color of your urine when you go to the washroom. If your urine is clear or light yellow, you are well hydrated. If it’s darker, you need to drink more water.
Be Aware—Stay Hydrated
Sometimes it’s the lack of a dietary staple that causes the heart to misfire, and in many cases, that substance is water.
As fatigue or muscle ache turns into thirst, you’re already pretty far down that path to dehydration. Many people don’t realize how quickly and deeply dehydration can set in, especially since the early warning signs are subtle.
Dehydration is never a healthy state, but the mineral imbalance that results can be especially troublesome for A-Fib patients.