As a part of attempting to improve my own health and well-being and maintain cognitive functioning as I age, I am currently studying nutrition. I find it a fascinating subject for several reasons. Firstly, because I am learning so much more about my own physical needs and the importance of simple things such as hydration to improve not only my weight management but so much more. Being a registered nurse I’ve known this to be true for many years but for some reason kept pushing it aside as an answer to health issues in my own life.
Did you realise that inadequate fluid intake can result in
· muscle cramping
· decreased cognitive function
· decreased physical performance
· decrease energy levels
· Increased electrolyte concentration
· decreased renal and cardiac function
So often we may have these symptoms and think something so much more sinister is at work within our bodies, when it can be as simple as not having had enough water and fluids, and just so you know coffee and tea are not counted as they are a diuretic, which means they increase the production of urine and would therefore cause dehydration if this was the only fluid we had. When a person has chronic hydration issues it takes so much longer to recover.
I remember as a young woman my dentist saying to me that he could tell by my gums that I had chronic hydration issues. I think I can say that I attribute this initial habit of denying myself adequate fluid to my early nursing training. It was exhausting, as you can imagine, and in those days we did regular rotation onto night shift and the one thing that we used to keep us going was caffeine. In those days I not only drank heaps of coffee but I took caffeine tablets because I couldn’t stay awake and wasn't used to this kind of work. When my kids were little I worried about leaving them with others and particularly in day care. We certainly didn't have the same types of day care available back then and life seemed a lot scarier to me and so I made the decision to work full time night shift to make sure I was at home during the day.
This decision had serious ramifications for my health and I got my first grey hairs at the young age of 22. Not only did it have ramifications for myself but it also impacted my children. My decision to keep them safe meant that they had an exhausted and cranky mum. I was the best mum I could be given what I knew and what I had at the time and I've had to learn to forgive myself for the decisions that I made and the impact this had on my family. At the end of the day if we could do better we would do better.
Caring for others, looking after my family and life in general meant that I developed habits of personal neglect. When we are young we think we have all the time in the world to repair the mistakes we know are there but before we know it we are 30, then 40, then 50 and the damage is done. The decision to focus on my own health in my 50’s is largely because the decades have shown me that my personal neglect, with regards to my health, has only gotten worse
and if I continue like I have been then my ageing years will look pretty bleak.
I have spent a small fortune over the years on vitamins, minerals, protein supplements, weight loss programmes, gym memberships etc etc etc… but here I am continuing to face issues of weight and the health issues that come with that. So where to from here? I think a great place to start is repairing the habit of chronic hydration issues. One conscious step at a time, onwards and upwards!