You may know that being adequately hydrated is important for day-to-day bodily functions such as regulating temperature and maintaining skin health. But drinking enough water is also associated with a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases, a lower risk of dying early or lower risk of being biologically older than your chronological age, according to a National Institutes of Health study published Monday in the journal eBioMedicine.
“The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said study author Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of NIH, in a news release.
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Learning what preventive measures can slow down the aging process is “a major challenge of preventive medicine,” the authors said in the study. That’s because an epidemic of “age-dependent chronic diseases” is emerging as the world’s population rapidly ages. And extending a healthy life span can help improve quality of life and decrease health care costs more than just treating diseases can.
The authors thought optimal hydration might slow down the aging process, based on previous similar research in mice. In those studies, lifelong water restriction increased the serum sodium of mice by 5 millimoles per liter and shortened their life span by six months, which equals about 15 years of human life, according to the new study. Serum sodium can be measured in the blood and increases when we drink less fluids.
Using health data collected over 30 years from 11,255 Black and White adults from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, or ARIC, the research team found adults with serum sodium levels at the higher end of the normal range — which is 135 to 146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) — had worse health outcomes than those at the lower end of the range. Data collection began in 1987 when participants were in their 40s or 50s, and the average age of participants at the final assessment during the study period was 76.
Adults with levels above 142 mEq/L had a 10% to 15% higher chance of being biologically older than their chronological age compared with participants in the 137 to 142 mEq/L range. The participants with higher faster-aging risk also had a 64% higher risk for developing chronic diseases such as heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes and dementia.
And people with levels above 144 mEq/L had a 50% higher risk of being biologically older and a 21% higher risk of dying early. Adults with serum sodium levels between 138 and 140 mEq/L, on the other hand, had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease. The study didn’t have information on how much water participants drank.
“This study adds observational evidence that reinforces the potential long-term benefits of improved hydration on reductions in long-term health outcomes, including mortality,” said Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, via email. Sesso was not involved in the study.
However, “it would have been nice to combine their definition of hydration, based on serum sodium levels only, with actual fluid intake data from the ARIC cohort,” Sesso added.
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Biological age was determined by biomarkers that measure the performance of different organ systems and processes, including cardiovascular, renal (relating to the kidneys), respiratory, metabolic, immune and inflammatory biomarkers.
High serum sodium levels weren’t the only factor associated with disease, early death and faster aging risk — risk was also higher among people with low serum sodium levels. This finding is consistent with previous reports of increased mortality and cardiovascular disease in people with low regular sodium levels, which has been attributed to diseases causing electrolyte issues, the authors said.
The study analyzed participants over a long period of time, but the findings don’t prove a causal relationship between serum sodium levels and these health outcomes, the authors said. Further studies are needed, they added, but the findings can help doctors identify and guide patients at risk.
“People whose serum sodium is 142 mEq/L or higher would benefit from evaluation of their fluid intake,” Dmitrieva said. Sesso noted that the study did not strongly address accelerated aging, “which is a complicated concept that we are just starting to understand.”
“Two key reasons underlie this,” Sesso said. The study authors “relied on a combination of 15 measures for accelerated aging, but this is one of many definitions out there for which there is no consensus. Second, their data on hydration and accelerated aging were a ‘snapshot’ in time, so we have no way to understand cause and effect.”
Drink enough fluids every day
About half of people worldwide don’t meet recommendations for daily total water intake, according to several studies the authors of the new research cited.
“On the global level, this can have a big impact,” Dmitrieva said in a news release. “Decreased body water content is the most common factor that increases serum sodium, which is why the results suggest that staying well hydrated may slow down the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease.”
Our serum sodium levels are influenced by liquid intake from water, other liquids, and fruits and vegetables with high water content.
“The most impressive finding is that this risk (for chronic diseases and aging) is apparent even in individuals who have serum sodium levels that are on the upper end of the ‘normal range,’” said Dr. Richard Johnson, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, via email. He was not involved in the study.
“This challenges the question of what is really normal, and supports the concept that as a population we are probably not drinking enough water.”
More than 50% of your body is made of water, which is also needed for multiple functions, including digesting food, creating hormones and neurotransmitters, and delivering oxygen throughout your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) recommends women consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of fluids daily, and that men have 3.7 liters (125 ounces) daily. This recommendation includes all fluids and water-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and soups. Since the average water intake ratio of fluids to foods is around 80:20, that amounts to a daily amount of 9 cups for women and 12 ½ cups for men.
People with health conditions should talk with their doctor about how much fluid intake is right for them.
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“The goal is to ensure patients are taking in enough fluids, while assessing factors, like medications, that may lead to fluid loss,” said study coauthor Dr. Manfred Boehm, director of the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine, in a news release. “Doctors may also need to defer to a patient’s current treatment plan, such as limiting fluid intake for heart failure.”
If you’re having trouble staying hydrated, you might need help working the habit into your usual routine. Try leaving a glass of water at your bedside to drink when you wake up, or drink water while your morning coffee is brewing. Anchor your hydration habit to a location you’re in a few times per day, behavioral science expert Dr. B.J. Fogg, founder and director of the Stanford University Behavior Design Lab, previously told CNN.
Waking up already feeling worn out? Unable to overcome the afternoon slump? These may be signs that various lifestyle factors are taking a toll on your energy levels, leading to brain fog and straight-up exhaustion.
When constantly on the go, it may be difficult to find ways to recharge. However, Dr. Alfred Tallia, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health in the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explained that more often than not, low energy levels can be remedied by adopting simple changes to your daily routine.
So, how can you combat unchecked stress to boost your energy levels? Vasan explained that it’s crucial to “find ways to integrate meditation or mindfulness into your daily life,” even for just five minutes each day. Experts also say that identifying coping skills that work for you — such as journaling or reading something that brings you joy — can help you destress and feel more energetic.
“If you’re consuming large amounts of caffeinated beverages throughout the day, it is probably going to affect your sleep pattern. This can then affect your energy levels,” Tallia said.
It’s important to note that suddenly cutting back on caffeinated beverages can also leave you feeling tired at first. As Tallia explained, “the body gets used to caffeine as a stimulant, and when it’s not present, you can experience an energy slump.”
Practice good sleep hygiene and establish a routine.
It goes without explaining that catching enough Zzzs is key to boosting your energy throughout the day. However, your energy levels are not just impacted by the amount of sleep you get each night, but by the quality of that sleep.
Even when practicing good sleep hygiene, you may find you’re waking up feeling fatigued. Raelene Brooks, the dean of the College of Nursing at University of Phoenix, said that could point to a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, don’t hesitate to pay your physician a visit.
“Even low-impact movement is shown to increase your oxygen flow and hormone levels, which give you a boost of energy,” Vasan explained. “It is the No. 1 tip I recommend to anyone feeling fatigued.”
Drink more water.
Dehydration is a common cause of low energy. According to Brooks, the science behind this is quite straightforward: “Our red blood cells carry oxygen. Ideally, a plump and round red blood cell allows for a full oxygen-carrying capacity,” she said. “When we are dehydrated, the red blood shrinks and this decreases the capacity for the cell to carry a full load of oxygen. Low oxygen levels are manifested by fatigue, irritability and restlessness.”
If you struggle with being mindful of your water intake, consider trying hacks such as investing in a smart water bottle to ensure you’re drinking enough H2O every day.
Be mindful of your screen time during the evening hours, and also during the day.
It almost goes without saying that excessive screen time at night can mess with your natural sleep cycle and energy the following day. As Vasan explained, “spending too much time on your phone, computer or watching your TV can cause fatigue by disrupting the neurotransmitters that are essential for sleep and restoration.”
However, the time you spend looking at your phone or computer during the day can also have a harmful impact on your energy levels. Too much screen time can lead to eye fatigue, which may trigger headaches and make it more difficult to concentrate.
We live in a digital world, so spending extensive time looking at a screen is unavoidable for most people. Making the “20-20-20 rule” a habit is a step towards tackling tiredness. According to Harvard Business Review, “when you’re working on a laptop, take a break every 20 minutes. Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a chance to relax.”
Avoid skipping meals.
If you ever skipped breakfast or worked right through your lunch break, you probably noticed you feel groggier than usual. While it’s totally normal to miss a meal, making a goal to regularly eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks throughout the day can increase your energy levels.
“Your brain needs nutrition to really function appropriately,” Tallia said. “A lot of people skip meals, and their blood sugar levels are going up and down all through the day.”
Moreover, Tallia said to steer clear of fad diets that encourage people to majorly cut back on caloric intake or to eliminate essential nutrient groups like carbohydrates. This can deprive you of energy. While it’s not uncommon to wake up feeling low on energy every once and a while, chronic fatigue could point to an underlying health issue.
“If you are eating well, getting enough sleep, integrating movement and exercise into your daily life but still feel tired for more than two weeks, you should consider reaching out to a medical professional,” Vasan said, explaining that a consistent drop in energy “can be an indicator of a host of mental and physical health issues ranging from fairly benign to severe.”
Ultimately, boosting your energy often comes down to taking inventory of different activities and current habits that could be draining you. Adopting just a few simple changes to your daily routine could be key to beating the fatigue once and for all.
Drink eight glasses of water a day. Coffee will make you dehydrated. Drinking extra water can help you lose weight. You’ve probably heard these claims about water and hydration before. But are they true?
To set the record straight, Life Kit talks to Tamara Hew-Butler, associate professor of exercise and sports science at Wayne State University; Mindy Millard-Stafford, director of the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at Georgia Tech; and Yuki Oka, a professor of biology at Caltech who specializes in thirst.
They explain the science of hydration and bust 5 common myths about water.
Myth #1: You need to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR
Is the advice of drinking eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day to stay hydrated true? Researchers in 2002 tried to pin down studies that might support the claim by looking through multiple scientific databases — but were unable to find rigorous evidence behind it.
What we do know, says Hew-Butler, is that water is essential for our bodies. It makes up a majority of our cells and blood, flushes out waste through our urine and helps cool our bodies through sweat. Too little water, and our cells shrivel up from dehydration. Too much water, and our cells swell up from hyponatremia.
So how much water should we be drinking on a daily basis? It depends, says Hew-Butler, on your body size, your activity level, the temperature and how much you’re sweating.
Because of these factors, there’s no hard and fast rule for how much water you should consume. “The best advice is to listen to your body,” she says. “If you get thirsty, drink water. If you’re not thirsty, you don’t need to drink water.”
“This will protect you against the dangers of both drinking too much and drinking too little,” she adds. “And this recommendation applies to [people of] all shapes and sizes in all temperature conditions.”
Hew-Butler says hydration is also about the balance of water to salt. Sodium is necessary for our nerves and muscles to function. And it’s what our body uses to regulate the amount of fluid it needs to stay hydrated.
Thirst plays a central role in fine-tuning that balance, she explains. “There are sensors located in your brain and they are constantly tasting your blood to see if [there’s] just the right [amount of] salt. If it’s too salty, then [those sensors are] like, ‘Oh my God, I need more water.’ When that happens, it makes you thirsty.”
Then, if you drink too much water and the sensors in your brain detect that your blood is too watery, they signal a hormone that tells your kidneys to pee out the extra water, she says.
In short: you don’t need an app to tell you how much water to drink or guzzle a gallon of water a day – just trust your body to let you know when to drink water, says Hew-Butler.
Another persistent myth about hydration states that caffeine is a diuretic that makes you pee, and therefore caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea don’t hydrate your body. The idea is based on the findings of a study from 1928 that looked at three people. Not only is that sample incredibly small by today’s standards, but the finding has not held up to more recent experiments. So consider this myth busted.
“Those studies have shown that drinking caffeinated and some low alcohol-content beverages [such as beer] are not much different than drinking water,” says Millard-Stafford of Georgia Tech.
Essentially, with the exception of higher alcohol-content beverages like hard liquor, all liquids count towards hydration. As does food. The experts we spoke to say about 20% of your fluid intake comes from the food you eat, from fruits and vegetables to pasta.
Myth #3: We need sports drinks to replace salt and other electrolytes.
Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR
You might hear that you need sports drinks to replace salt and other minerals known as electrolytes (like potassium and chloride, which are also essential for our bodies) when you’re active.
If you’re exercising for more than an hour or so, it’s likely you will need to replace the salt you’re sweating out along with water, say the experts. But you don’t have to do that by drinking sports drinks like Gatorade. While they can be one effective way to replace the body’s salt, you can get that salt from other foods and drinks. And like thirst, you can trust your body to tell you how much you need.
Researchers have found that along with a thirst for water, humans have evolved a thirst for salt and other minerals too. “The brain monitors [how much you lose], then triggers a precise appetite” for something salty, says Oka, the professor of biology at Caltech. That might be sports drinks — or a salty snack like peanuts.
Hew-Butler and a team of colleagues conducted a study to find out just how well the body’s thirst mechanism for salt works. They analyzed five years of research on ultra-marathon runners in northern California. Organizers at the races set out tables with salty snacks such as peanuts, pickles, salted watermelon and even salt packets in addition to water, soda and sports drinks and encouraged the runners to consume only what they craved. The researchers found that the runners were able to keep their salt-balance levels in check just by following their thirst and appetite.
Bottom line? Your body will tell you when it’s got a hankering for salt — so let your cravings be your guide.
Myth #4: Drinking water can help you lose weight.
Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR
Some small studies have found that drinking water before meals can help certain groups of people lose weight. The idea is that water makes your stomach feel full, and therefore, you eat less.
However, there are many conflicting studies on this topic. For example, one paper found that drinking up to 500 mL of water 30 minutes before a meal led to weight loss in a group of young men, but another paper found that the tactic did not work for younger people in the study — only the older ones.
And when scientists looked at papers on this subject in a systematic review, they concluded that there’s just not enough evidence for the general public. In a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers surveyed four electronic databases and found that only three studies suggested that increased water consumption could lead to weight loss if it’s part of a diet program. But the results were inconsistent for people who were not dieting. Ultimately, the researchers concluded, “The evidence for this association is still low, mostly because of the lack of good-quality studies.”
Studies have shown that drinking water can help with weight loss if it’s replacing sugary beverages like soda, sweet juices and sports drinks. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers asked a group of more than 300 overweight and obese individuals to replace such beverages with water for 6 months and found it helped reduce the subjects’ weight by an average of 2 to 2.5%.
Myth #5: Dark-colored pee means you’re dehydrated.
Photo Illustration by Becky Harlan/NPR
Scientists commonly measure dehydration by looking at the concentration of sodium and other solids in urine, which is what makes pee darker in color. But that isn’t the most precise way to tell whether someone needs more water, says Hew-Butler.
In 2017, she conducted a study published in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine to see if measuring the salt concentration of urine was an accurate reflection of the salt concentration in blood. She asked 318 athletes to “pee in a cup, then we drew their blood,” she says. More than half of the athletes showed up as dehydrated when she measured their urine — but when she looked at their blood, none of them showed up as dehydrated.
Just because your urine is dark gold, says Hew-Butler, it doesn’t mean your body is dehydrated. It just means your kidneys aren’t releasing as much water in order to keep your blood’s water-sodium level balanced. It would be more accurate to look at the concentration of sodium in our blood, she says, because our brain’s sensors use that to decide how much water our bodies need.
That said, if you’re not great at paying attention to your thirst, some hydration experts recommend drinking enough water to keep your urine a light, straw-yellow color — a simple way to assess hydration.Hydration, like so many things, comes down to balance.”It’s a happy medium, right?” says Millard-Stafford. “Not too much. Not too little. Just right – the Goldilocks sort of approach.”
If you don’t take care of your body, you will likely be exposed to avoidable health complications. Also, most people practice poor feeding habits without knowing it and may become victims of inadequate nutrition. You may need to add exercise to your health plan as long-term health goes beyond eating well. The following lifestyle changes are worth your effort to improve your health in the long term.
1. Start a Work-out Routine
A workout routine can be risky for those with a sedentary lifestyle, especially if they lead a stressful life and overeat. A workout routine should include cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Start with a general routine with specific elements like a warm-up, muscle groups being worked on, cool down, and stretching. Such a simple routine can help you become healthier. They may also help you build better habits like getting off the couch or taking breaks when working at the computer.
2. Practice Yoga and Meditation
Yoga is an ancient practice that heals the body and mind. It was designed to help individuals focus and work on their flexibility and strength. There are different types of yoga-like Bikram and vinyasa, among others. If you want to enjoy the full benefits of yoga, find a local instructor, and attend yoga classes regularly. You can research a 200 hour yoga teacher training for 2 weeks course if it becomes an ongoing interest for yourself. You can also do it at home or alone by looking up online tutorials on how to perform each pose correctly.
3. Eat Nutrient-rich Foods
A diet rich in nutrients is a healthy one. Eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables and fruits. It will help you maintain weight and keep your body hydrated and energized. It also promotes a healthy heart and boosts brain function. Include fish, lean meats, nuts, beans, and seeds in your diet. You can also add olive oil to your cooking to boost the flavor of meat dishes or grains. Also, you may need to eat fiber-rich foods. Fiber fills you up without adding fat or calories to your diet. It also helps with digestion and prevents constipation. You can add fiber to your diet by eating more fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans.
4. Avoid Excessive Drinking and Smoking
Too much alcohol damages your liver, heart, and other organs. Smoking reduces your lung capacity, damages arteries, and causes lung cancer. If you must drink and smoke, limit it to one drink or cigarette a day. You can also consider switching to less harmful alternatives like e-cigarettes or electronic hookah pens for smoking.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Water as a beverage is essential for life, but it is also necessary when working out regularly. You can also add a pinch of salt or lemon juice to make it more refreshing and flavorful. Drinking plenty of water helps you stay hydrated, prevents exercise-induced dehydration, promotes weight loss, and reduces the risk of heart disease.
6. Avoid Sugary Drinks
Sugar is found in many drinks, but improper feeding patterns can also influence your weight. If you take in too much sugar during a meal, the digestive system gets confused, and you eat more throughout the day. It leads to weight gain. You can limit your intake of sugary drinks and choose water instead.
7. Sleep Well at Night
Sleep is crucial for your overall health. During sleep, the body recuperates, repairs damages, and builds immunity. Lack of sleep can also cause anxiety, depression, and heart problems. Most professionals recommend 8 hours of sleep a day. It is recommended to provide the body with adequate rest. People with busy schedules can still get the required amount by getting sufficient sleep.
8. Keep a Healthy Body Weight
Excess weight can affect your body’s functioning. It includes increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and increased cholesterol levels. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight may improve your health significantly. Studies show that getting underweight increases the risk of death among the obese.
9. Go for Regular Health Checkups
Regular health checkups can detect early signs of illness and disease. It would help if you got checked regularly to ensure that you do not suffer from high blood pressure. It is a condition that increases your risk of death from complications like heart disease. You should also have your cholesterol levels checked every three to five years if the levels are high. If you do not have a regular doctor, consider private health checks for better healthcare options.
In conclusion, improving your lifestyle can lead to a healthier life. The lifestyle changes mentioned above are easy to implement and will improve your health in the long term.
Europe is sweltering under a heatwave and many are casting around for any way to stay cool in countries not used to the kinds of temperatures more common in the Middle East than England. Here The National’s correspondents from Beirut to Baghdad offer tips on how to stay cool when there’s no air conditioning ― given they’re used to keeping their cool despite power cuts, fuel shortages and crumbling infrastructure.
Take a cold shower to get your body temperature down, strip down to the bare essentials and lie on your back on a tiled floor close to a window that’s facing away from the sun. Because it’s often hotter indoors than it is outdoors (without air conditioning, of course), go out to a public park. In Cairo, the hotter it gets the more on edge people are ― tempers fray quickly and heated arguments are common, but it’s too hot for things to get physical very often.
Poor and middle-class Cairenes flock to Nile-side boulevards to get a breeze in the evening. The pavements of most of Cairo’s many Nile bridges are filled with evening strollers and hawkers selling them soft drinks or, strangely, hot black sweet tea.
The parks, few and far between in the city of 20 million people, are thronged by families who take a long picnic in the evenings. Those with deep pockets escape to the upmarket North Coast where temperatures are typically lower than in Cairo, swimming pools are in abundance in their gated communities and the golden sands and pristine blue waters of the Mediterranean are welcoming.
When stuck in sprawling Cairo in the summer, I go to my city centre country club and sit under a mature tree that offers deep shade, where I can sip an iced coffee or fresh juice. While most European homes do not have the tiled floors or open courtyards that keep many Tunisian homes cool in the summer, there’s one thing we do have in common, greenery. Throughout the Arab world, the country is known as “Tunisia the green”, and all those trees help keep you cool in the hot climate.
So rather than hiding inside with the blinds drawn and a fan whirling, take a towel (maybe even a damp towel you stashed in the freezer for a bit), some watermelon and a big bottle of cool water outside and park yourself under a tree in the afternoon. When temperatures climb above 40ºC, Tunisians head for their other hot-weather refuge, the water.
If you can’t get yourself to a beach, try looking for a nearby pond or creek for a bit of wild swimming to cool you down and keep you refreshed. Tunisians also take care to keep their pets — and the street cats and dogs that are regular fixtures in every neighbourhood — cool, by putting out water dishes in shady areas of the street for passing pups and kitties to stay hydrated.
Early morning walks with your furry friends will help you both get your exercise before the sweltering heat sets in. If you do have to take your pup out for a break mid-afternoon, dip their paws in water before you go out and stick to the shady side of the street to avoid burns.
When Iraq’s sweltering summer comes and temperatures in some places stay above 50ºC for weeks (and there are frequent power failures meaning no AC or fans), cold watermelon is the best friend of Iraqis. There’s nothing like cold watermelon to beat the scorching heat in a summer without AC.
It’s placed in the fridge to let it cool down a little before eating or drinking the juice ― unlike any other fruit, watermelon contains at least 90 per cent water, which makes it ideal to quench your thirst.With Iraq’s extreme temperatures, people get creative to cool off. Misting fans and showers are set up on pavements in outdoor markets, while street vendors selling ice cream, cold drinks or (of course) watermelon are seen on every corner in the city.
Some Iraqis take a dip in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In some areas, mainly in the south, families place ice blocks in front of fans to blast cool air.My final piece of advice is to keep ice cream handy. Lebanon is struggling to provide any mains power at all and blackouts are common. While old traditional stone buildings can be good for staying cool, in Beirut’s concrete blocks the temperature rises fast.
My advice is to close all the doors to one room and use seveal battery-powered fans ― mine turn on automatically when the electricity cuts out and, if placed strategically, will circulate air around the room. Then lie down on the tiles, because they stay cool in the hot summer.
We also freeze a watermelon ― it’s delicious and will keep you cool. Cut the melon into squares and put them in the freezer overnight (assuming you have the electricity). For extra flavour, pair it with a traditional salty white Akkawi cheese. The key is to stay hydrated ― I like to make a mint lemonade slushy with crushed ice. Night time can be tough, but don’t underestimate the value of an open window.Open all the windows to get the air moving around the house, letting through the occasional cool breeze. The downside, however, is the mosquitos.
Other than the obvious ― find somewhere with AC and stay there ― in Abu Dhabi you just try to avoid going out too much in the daytime. If you do, move slowly and try to stick to the shade, although it doesn’t really feel as if it makes that much difference. This week the weather has been OK because although the temperature might be about 40ºC, the humidity is only about 50 per cent. When the temperature is more than 40ºC and the humidity tops 80 per cent, the only answer is to learn to live indoors.
You dash from building to building when you have to move around and for about three months you just accept the fact that you’ll start perspiring profusely as soon as you step outside. You simply have to embrace indoor living ― find hobbies you can do inside, join a gym, shop in malls and crank up the AC. And carry a spare T-shirt in case you do get caught outside and end up arriving looking like you just showered.
If you’re unable to invest in an air conditioner during the summer, or can’t access indoor locations with air conditioning, such as community cooling centers, it’s imperative that you follow these recommendations to stay cool.
1. Drink lots of water
Frequently drinking water is one of the best protective measures against heat-related illness. That’s because when you’re well-hydrated, your body is able to sweat, and when you sweat it evaporates off your skin, cooling you down.
But when you’re dehydrated, you can’t sweat as effectively which makes you less able to deal with hot temperatures. Usually your body will become dehydrated before you notice the signs, so it’s important you don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink.
2. Use cold washcloths
Applying a cold, damp cloth directly to your skin can help lower your temperature. The Mayo Clinic recommends placing it on your pulse points — such as the back of your neck, under your armpits, on your wrists, or on your groin.
In these areas, your blood vessels are close to the surface of your skin, meaning the cold will extract more heat from your body and bring your temperature down more quickly.
Prepare a cold washcloth by:
Wetting a towel with cool water
Squeezing out excess water, so that the towel is damp
Leaving it in the refrigerator — the longer you leave it, the colder it will be
If you use ice packs, make sure to never apply ice directly to the skin, as this can burn it. Instead, wrap the ice in a towel or blanket and apply for no more than 20 minutes every two to four hours.
Although it can give temporary relief, taking a cool bath or shower actually increases our core temperature. Your skin temperature falls and you’ll feel cooler, but the cold water reduces blood flow to the skin, so you’ll actually keep more heat inside.
Important: As counterintuitive as it might seem, warm showers — with a water temperature of about 91.4 °F — can actually keep us cooler by increasing blood flow to the skin, allowing more heat to escape the body once you’re out of the shower.
3. Eat cool foods and avoid alcohol
Here are some of the best foods and drinks to cool yourself down:
Vegetables contain lots of water, which can help hydrate you and keep you cool. Lettuce, for instance, is 95% water and cucumber is 96% water.
In addition, salads require no cooking, and anything you can prep on hot days without your stove or oven is best since it’ll help keep your house, and you, cooler, according to the CDC.
Not only is watermelon a summer staple for picnics and barbecues, but it’s also 90% water.
“The pink flesh contains vitamins C and A and the antioxidant lycopene, which helps in protecting you from the sun too,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian at a private practice. “This is the perfect snack to cool off and replenish electrolytes that are lost as you sweat in the sun.”
Fresh mint can be grown in the garden and provides an instant cooling sensation. It’s a zero-calorie addition that will freshen any drink or snack.
“Ironically, spicy foods are a great way to beat the heat,” Zuckerbrot says. “Eating something that will cause sweating, nature’s way of cooling us down, will allow you to withstand the sun.”
Sweating can lead to dehydration, though, so make sure to consume substantial water throughout the day.
In addition to drinking water, adding some ice to it is not such a bad idea when you’re trying to stay cool.
According to a small 2016 study, men who exercised in the heat were able to stay cooler when drinking “ice slurry,” a mixture of crushed ice and water. And, a small 2021 study also found that drinking the ice and water mixture during post-workout recovery brought down subjects’ core and skin temperature more effectively than a beverage with no ice.
If straight water and ice sounds boring, try frozen fruit instead. Or make your own homemade popsicles with fresh fruit and juices. Just be aware of how much sugar is in those juices since consuming too much sugarmay dehydrate you.
“Skip the margaritas and mojitos,” says Karen Ansel, MS, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “A summertime cocktail might seem like just the thing for a warm evening, but too much alcohol can cause your body to lose water.”
If water starts to sound bland, rethink your ice cubes, Ansel says. Adding frozen berries, grapes, or melon chunks to sparkling water is a refreshing way to switch things up.
4. Dress less
Clothing layers can trap heat and sweat. So, when dressing for heat, wear as few layers as possible and be prudent about which materials you choose — some fabrics are better than others.
While light-color clothes may reflect a bit more heat from the sun, the main goal is to ensure there’s airflow. Think: loose T-shirts and shorts or flowy dresses.
Go for natural materials like cotton and linen, which better absorb sweat and encourage airflow to the skin. Specifically, researchers from the University of Oregon found that wearing a fabric made of 95% cotton and 5% spandex is the best choice in hot weather. These materials will feel cooler to your skin in the heat, because they transfer less heat than other materials.
You can also wear something with ventilation holes, such as mesh, which allows for more airflow.
If you’re working or exercising in the heat, you’ll want to dress in moisture wicking materials, such as polyester or nylon, according to a small 2014 study. These materials protect you from the sun while also encouraging sweat evaporation to keep you cool.
5. Use fans properly
Fans can’t lower the temperature of an entire room. However, fans can create a wind-chill effect, so you feel cooler.
Basically, when a fan blows air around, it helps sweat evaporate from your skin, which cools you down.
Ceiling fans are considered the most effective, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), because they circulate the air throughout the entire room. But turn them off when you leave the room; ceiling fans cool people, not rooms.
Also, when buying ceiling fans, look for the ENERGY STAR® label since fans that earn that label move air 20% more efficiently, on average, than standard models, according to the DOE.
If you have a tower fan, try placing frozen water bottles or a bowl of ice in front of the blowing air. It can provide a cool breeze when you need it most.
Window fans, or portable fans, can also work well in many climates, but they are only effective if you use them correctly. To do so, you’ll only want to use them when the air outside is cooler than the air inside, which is usually at nighttime.
6. Get low
In general, you’ll stay cooler if you hang out on the lowest levels of a structure. This is because hot air rises and cool air settles. Instead of hanging out upstairs, try moving your normal activities to your lowest level or basement.
You can also try sitting and sleeping on the floor, since it’s likely the coldest part of your house.
7. Cool down at bedtime
Sleeping in the heat doesn’t have to be miserable. Try these tips to feel cooler at night:
Sleep alone. If you’re struggling to keep cool at night, stay away from other sources of heat, including the body heat from your partner or pets.
Wear the right materials. Go for cooling pajamas made of materials specifically formulated for cooling, or wear natural materials, including wool. A small 2019 study showed that wearing wool sleepwear in a room with the temperature set at 86 °F helped subjects get to sleep faster than when they wore cotton or polyester sleepwear of similar thickness. This could be because wool is breathable, wicks moisture, and helps regulate body temperature.
Let the cool night air in. If it’s cooler outside at night, and you feel safe doing so, open a window. Better yet, open two windows to encourage a cross breeze. You can also set up window fans to help blow the hot air out and the fresh, cool air in.
Take a warm shower or bath before bed. Taking a warm shower or bath before bed will not only keep you cooler, but it can also help you fall asleep more quickly and enjoy better sleep quality, according to a 2019 review.
Spraying yourself with cool water sounds like a no-brainer on a hot day. But it could be just the balm against uncomfortable heat that you need.
In fact, it might even cool you down more than ingesting an icy beverage.
According to 2016 research, applying cool water to skin and letting it evaporate helps your body lose more heat than it would if you drank an ice slurry. Researchers noted that this works best in dry, breezy climates, rather than humid ones, since humidity keeps liquid and sweat from evaporating as efficiently.
Add an electric fan, and you’ll have even more cooling power. A 2020 review compiled evidence that spraying water on people’s skin while they were using a fan could help them stay cooler.
9. Keep out sunlight
About 76% of the sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows turns into heat and raises the temperature in your home, according to the DOE.
The rise in home temperature due to sunlight is called solar heat gain. During summer, windows facing west and east allow in the most heat, while north and south facing windows only give small solar gains.
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the amount of heat that enters your home from sunlight. Here’s how:
Close the curtains or blinds
Covering windows with curtains or blinds is especially important on windows receiving direct sunlight — though the effectiveness can depend on the type and color of the material.
According to the DOE, medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by up to 33%. When choosing curtains, go for tightly woven materials. Multiple layers of fabric will also do a better job of keeping heat out. Additionally, lining your curtains with light-colored fabrics, if they are not already light, will help reflect the sun.
Use shutters, shades, or awnings
Shutters. Exterior shutters and shades are most effective at reducing solar heat gain, according to the DOE. Shades are typically fabric or vinyl and the material may have openings that allow some visibility through the window. The larger the openings, the less protection from solar gain.
Cellular shades. Insulated cellular shades — for a window’s interior — are made of pleated materials that can fold up, like an accordion. They can reduce solar heat gain through windows by 60%, making it a very effective way to insulate your home from solar heat.
Window awnings. An awning is a roof-like shelter on a home’s exterior that shades windows from the sun’s heat and glare. Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows.
Apply high-reflectivity window film
Window films can be useful if you don’t want to block views since they are semi-transparent. They’re also useful if your windows are difficult or expensive to fit with other treatments.
They typically have three layers: an adhesive layer that sits against the glass, a polyester film layer, and a scratch-resistant coating. As solar radiation strikes the glass, window film acts as a sunscreen to block harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays as well as reduce the levels of heat and light passing through the glass.
A 2013 study showed that most of the relatively low-cost window-tinting films successfully reduced the heat that came through by 41 to 50 °F. They can be professionally applied or are available for do-it-yourself installation at home improvement stores.
While these tips can help you stay cool, extreme heat can sometimes be too much to bear without air conditioning.
If you’re unable to keep yourself cool with these strategies, you may develop the symptoms of heat exhaustion, which, if left untreated, can turn into heat stroke — a serious medical emergency that can lead to organ damage or death without immediate attention.
When temperatures are high, such as during a heat wave, check in frequently on young children under the age of four, as well as older people above the age of 65, because they are more susceptible to heat-related illness.