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Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50
Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50

Health: Safe Hydration -
Water and Sports Drinks

One area of great importance in keeping healthy when being active is maintaining a correct electrolyte balance. We all hear about staying hydrated, but many do not know the dangers of hyponatremia, or an electrolyte imbalance. This is when sodium and potassium becomes dangerously low.

Symptoms of moderate hyponatremia include tiredness, disorientation, headache, muscle cramps, and nausea. Severe hyponatremia can lead to seizures and coma. These neurological symptoms are thought to result from the movement of water into brain cells, causing them to swell and disrupt their functioning... If you drink more water, the condition can become worse.

Recently, Americans have been urged to pay more attention to their sodium intake. Decades ago, all foods seemed heavily salted. Then, a link between sodium intake and high blood pressure was discovered. Suddenly, "sodium - free" or "low sodium" products began flooding the consumer market. Certainly, to a degree, this is justified. Many diseases are worsened by excess sodium intake, and millions of Americans must closely watch the amount of sodium in their diet.

However, sodium is a required element for normal body functions. It is lost in sweat and urine and is replaced in the diet. The body has a remarkable ability to maintain sodium and water balance throughout a variety of conditions, thus ensuring our survival. Ultraendurance events challenge this survival mechanism.

In hot, humid conditions a large amount of sweat is lost, which can disturb sodium and water balance. Either adequate hydration and sodium intake - via sports drinks or food -becomes vitally important during prolonged activity. A very dangerous place is in the dry climate, where you continue to sweat, but do not realize it. This is where I experienced my first severe attack.

I no longer hike, backpack, long distance walk, or fly without an electrolyte replacement. I realized after using replacements, that when I would get a headache from backpacking or long distance walking, it wasn't "sunstroke." I can now enjoy my extreme days by staying healthy.

...Fiftysense Product Review Panel

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