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Understanding body water percentage: a significant health indicator
A healthy water percentage is essential to your body’s functions. But why is hydration so essential, and is there an ideal body water range? How can you calculate your body water percentage? What are the signs of dehydration and excess body water? Read on to find out.
Hydration levels can even affect the brain: In a 2014 article in ACMS’s Health and Fitness Journal, the authors note that even mild dehydration—defined as 1–2% loss of body water—can affect cognitive function, including attentiveness, critical thinking skills, and memory.
So, good hydration is important — but how can you make sure your body water is balanced?
What is body water percentage and why does it matter?
Your body water percentage is the amount of water in your body, expressed as a percentage of your total weight.
Water is essential to your body’s function: your brain and heart, for example, are 73% water, and your lungs are 83% water. Even your bones are 31% water. In an article in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science, “The Turnover of Body Water as an Indicator of Health,” the authors noted, “Water homeostasis (also known as fluid balance) is essential for healthy living,” and theorized that healthy people may have a higher body water turnover than unhealthy people.
"If so, body water turnover can be an indicator of human health."
Source: H. Shimamoto, S Koyima, J. Physiol Anthropol Apppl Human Sci. 2000
What is the ideal body water percentage?
Body water declines as you age, but it will remain above 50 percent for most, if not all, of your lifetime.
The normal range for adult women varies between 45% and 60%.
For men, the ideal body water percentage fluctuates between 50% and 65% of the total body.
In babies, that number is much higher. The norm is considered to be between 75% and 78%, dropping to 65% by one year of age.
Body water percentage can be measured using several methods. For example, in a method called dilution, or hydrometry, the person being measured provides body fluid samples in a clinical setting. These samples are analyzed for isotope levels to calculate total body water and body fat mass. Another method, bioelectrical impedance analysis, a feature available in some smart scales, can measure the percentage of water in your body as part of your total body composition.
If you want to estimate your body water, you may want to try the Watson formula, reported in a 1980 study entitled “Total Body Water Volumes for Adult Males and Females Estimated From Simple Anthropometric Measurements” in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Watson formula for men
2.447 – (0.09145 x age) + (0.1074 x height in centimeters) + (0.3362 x weight in kilograms) = total body water (TBW) in liters
Watson formula for women
–2.097 + (0.1069 x height in centimeters) + (0.2466 x weight in kilograms) = total body weight (TBW) in liters
Hydration has a number of health benefits. As we mentioned, water helps to regulate your body temperature, lubricate your joints, and assist in digestion. Your blood helps to carry glucose, oxygen and and nutrients to your cells, and your kidneys get rid of waste products that are no longer needed in your body. Water is essential to both.
Your body has a complex system of physiological controls to maintain fluid balance. In an article in Nutrition Reviews entitled “Water, Hydration and Health,” the authors write,“These mechanisms are sensitive and precise, and are activated with deficits or excesses of water amounting to only a few hundred milliliters.” In other words, even a tiny bit of water can make a big difference in your body’s fluid regulation.
As a guideline, WebMD suggests drinking 15 to 20 ounces of water 1 to 2 hours before your workout, between 8 and 10 ounces 15 minutes before you begin your workout, and another 8 ounces every 15 minutes during your workout. If you’re sweating heavily or losing weight during your workout, you may need to drink more.
Symptoms of severe dehydration in adults may include dizziness, rapid heartbeat or breathing, very dry skin, sleepiness or lack of energy, and fainting. Symptoms in babies and small children may differ, and include no tears when crying, dry diapers for 3 hours or longer, dry mouth or tongue, and sunken eyes. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately.
What are the risks of dehydration in adults?
Dehydration can lead to serious consequences, including heat injury, seizures, urinary and kidney problems, and hypovolemic shock, when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and oxygen in your body. If left untreated, it can lead to death.
How long does it take for water to go through your body?
It depends on whether you’ve eaten. If you’re drinking on an empty stomach, water can enter your bloodstream within 5 minutes of your first sip. If you’ve just had a meal, it can take water anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours—and, in fact, drinking water with a meal can help speed up your overall digestion.
Hydration is essential to your body’s function, and knowing your body water percentage can help you understand more about your overall health.
Calculating your body composition may be able to tell you whether you have a healthy water percentage.
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