Was it hard to concentrate during that important work meeting?
Maybe the crossword puzzle was more difficult than usual?
Or perhaps you had a hard time remembering what you were supposed to buy at the grocery store.
You may think these common mental lapses are a normal part of getting older. But a study shows that there is often a simple solution that can restore your cognitive sharpness.
And it is as close as your kitchen sink.
Need to Focus? Drink This
Most studies of dehydration look at how it affects the body. But researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology wanted to know how it impacts cognitive functioning. They did an in-depth analysis of 33 human studies involving thousands of subjects.i
They found that being even a little dehydrated can cause:ii
- A 12% increase in mental errors
- A decrease in brain’s ability to control motor coordination
- Muddled thinking
- A drop in attention span
- An increase in reaction time
- Mood swings
Dr. Mindy Millard-Stafford is director of the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences. She was the lead author on the study.
“When people are mildly dehydrated they really don’t do as well on tasks that require complex processing,” she said. “Tasks that require attention were quite impacted.”iii
She also said her study showed that dehydration can even increase the risk of a car accident because of poor driving due to reduced reaction time and lack of mental focus.
The research was published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
5 Surprising Signs You’re Dehydrated
Your brain is 73% water. That’s why staying hydrated is so important to cognitive function. And your brain can run low on water even if you don’t feel thirsty.
For most people, thirst doesn’t kick in until a significant level of dehydration has already been reached.iv
You may know that dark urine is sign of dehydration. But that’s an unreliable marker. Some foods and supplements also can color urine.
There are other symptoms of dehydration that you might never associate with the condition:
- Hunger. If you have just eaten and still feel hungry, reach for water, not more food.
- Sudden urge for sweets. The liver uses water to release glycogen for energy. If you are dehydrated, your body looks for an instant energy boost from sugars.
- Headache. Your brain sits in a protective fluid sack. When you’re dehydrated, your brain bumps against your skull. This causes a headache.
- You stop sweating. If you’re exercising and you stop sweating it may be because your body doesn’t have enough fluid to produce sweat.
- Blood pressure spikes. Your blood may be thickening from lack of water. This causes your pressure to go up.
Long term dehydration can cause constipation, bad breath, and dry skin. Seniors dehydrate more quickly than younger people. That’s because their kidneys are less able to process and retain water.
The Best Way to Hydrate
It is a myth that your body needs eight glasses of water a day. Most people actually need more, although eating fruits and vegetables can lower your water needs.
The average man actually needs about twelve 8-ounce glasses of water a day. A woman needs about nine. If you sweat a lot or are very active, you need more.
And contrary to what you may have heard, coffee and tea do not dehydrate you.
If you face an important mental task, pre-hydrate just like you would before exercising. That way you will ensure that your brain is functioning at its peak.
Plain water will work. Avoid sports drinks. They tend to be loaded with sugars.
A better alternative is coconut water. It’s loaded with electrolytes.
Drink it straight or mix a couple ounces with water. Just make sure you are getting pure coconut water with no added sugar or artificial ingredients.
If you find that you’re having a hard time keeping your mental focus, it may have nothing to do with getting older. It may simply mean that you need to hydrate.
Editor’s Note: It’s NEVER too late to build a strong brain. Discover neurogenesis, the new science of brain cell creation that allows you to stay mentally sharp for the rest of your life.
Get all the details in our monthly journal Independent Healing. It’s your best source for unbiased, science-backed health information.