News Briefs: Dehydration’s Effect on Brain Function; Sleep Apnea & Cognition

Dehydration Leads to Problems with Attention, Decision-Making and Other Brain Functions

As a long, hot summer starts to wind down, it’s still important to focus on staying hydrated. Your cognition depends on it. According to an analysis published recently in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that fluid loss equaling 2 percent of your body mass can affect your ability to think clearly. In their research the scientists examined the results of 33 studies involving more than 400 adults. The researchers looked at the records of people who lost fluids amounting to 1 to 6 percent of their body mass either through exercise or through exposure to heat or through fluid restriction. It turns out that losing just 2 percent of your body mass in fluids amounts to a reduction in decision-making skills and other cognitive abilities. It’s just another reminder to stay hydrated, particularly if you live in a very hot region or are very active. Check the color of your urine to get an idea about your hydration level. Urine should be mostly clear. If it’s very yellow or even turning a shade of yellowish-brown, you should start hydrating. If your urine is very clear, you may be consuming more fluids than you need. Also keep in mind that you could already be getting dehydrated before you start feeling thirsty. If you’re unsure how much water you need throughout the day, consult with your doctor. The average person needs the equivalent of about eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, but medical conditions such as heart failure may affect your doctor’s recommendation.

Sleep Apnea May Contribute to Structural Changes in the Brain That Affect Cognition

Here is another reason to have your obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) symptoms evaluated by a sleep specialist: This common sleep-disordered-breathing problem may cause the same kinds of changes in the brain that are seen in the early stages of dementia. That’s according to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal. OSA is a condition in which the tissue in the back of the throat relaxes and causes you to pause in your breathing throughout the night. As a result, your brain doesn’t get a steady and sufficient supply of oxygen while you sleep. This drop in oxygen may be linked to a shrinking of the brain’s temporal lobes and a corresponding decline in memory. If you snore or you experience daytime sleepiness, talk with your doctor or see a sleep specialist for an evaluation. Treatment, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, may be helpful in keeping your airway open throughout the night. OSA is also associated with other serious health complications, including high blood pressure, obesity, and an abnormal heart rate. Often a bed partner is the one who is first aware of a partner’s sleep-related breathing issues. Gasping while sleeping is usually a sign of OSA. Another important symptom is the tendency to fall asleep during the day at inopportune times, such as behind the wheel at a stoplight or lying down for a moment.

Time Spent Outdoors May Help Reduce Stress and Provide Multiple Health Benefits

British researchers suggest that time spent outside and living close to nature is associated with lower risks of stress, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even premature death. The researchers arrived at this conclusion after reviewing the data from about 140 studies including 290 million people in 20 countries. In their report, published in Environmental Research, the researchers compared the health of people living near green spaces with people who had little access to parks, forests and other natural settings. In addition to the previously mentioned health benefits, people who spend more time in green spaces also enjoy greater sleep duration. One of the more interesting findings was that greater exposure to green space decreased people’s levels of salivary cortisol, a physiological marker of stress. The reasons for the health benefits associated with lakes, trees and outdoor settings weren’t entirely clear. The researchers suggested that people who live near outdoor recreation areas may be more likely to be physically active outside and have a generally healthier lifestyle; they may eat healthier foods and avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking. Exposure to a wide variety of bacteria outdoors may benefit the immune system and help reduce inflammation.

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