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Walking, Hydrating for Better Health

An idyllic setting and a little reprieve from the sun made for a perfect Walk with a Doc on Saturday, Aug. 10 at Harlow Platts Park. Conditions were a bit overcast and temperatures were slightly below normal, but the weather was fitting for the walk’s theme – Staying Hydrated for Better Health.

Walking is a great way to reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, manage weight, elevate your mood, and reduce your risk for osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes. Exercise of any kind though can create dehydration – if fluids aren’t replenished properly. Dr. Jeff Carter, BCH hospitalist, talked to the Walk with a Doc participants about symptoms of dehydration and what to be aware of when exercising or being outdoors.

“Thirst is this really important thing. If you’re not thirsty, you’re probably not dehydrated,” Carter said.

Symptoms of dehydration can start at two percent and include weakness, fatigue, dry skin, chills or feeling lightheaded when standing up, he said.

“At five percent, you might see a faster heart rate, decreased sweat, not urinating, cramps, headache or nausea,” Carter said. “If you take blood pressure medications or diuretics, these things can interfere with our body’s ability to respond to dehydration.”

People who take diuretics lose more salt in their urine, which can increase the risk of low blood sodium. As a hospitalist, Carter said he sees more cases of low blood sodium than profound dehydration. Symptoms of low sodium in the blood can range from a mild problem – confusion, weakness or not feeling your best – to seizures, coma and even death – although that is uncommon.

How much water do you need?

Based on activity level, Carter advises people to drink between 1.5 and four liters of water daily, with 2.7 liters for females and 3.7 for males. Fruits and vegetables in your diet can also provide an additional benefit, since 20 percent of water intake comes from food.

While the cure for dehydration is replenishing sodium, and drinking water or other fluids, Carter is quick to point out that there is no benefit to over-hydration.

“There is potential harm. I think there is this notion – maybe more prevalent in Boulder - that drinking lots of water is a helpful thing to do and it flushes out toxins. That’s just not true,” Carter said.

bch boulder community health walk with a doc group exercises stretchesHow do you know if you’re dehydrated?

If you are not thirsty and your urine is not dark, you are hydrated, Carter says. Your kidneys, along with your liver, are working properly and your body is getting rid of what isn’t needed. The number one thing to be aware of with dehydration is gastrointestinal illnesses, Carter said.

If you have nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, drink enough fluids,” Carter said. “If you are on blood pressure medications and diuretics, you will have worsening symptoms because these types of medicines interfere with your body’s ability to (deal with losing water). Keep an eye on your weight and call your doctor.”

Next Walk with a Doc

Thank you to Dr. Carter; Dr. Nelson Trujillo, WWAD’s lead physician and board-certified cardiologist at Boulder Community Health; program coordinator Gina Simmering; the BCH Foundation; and all of our sponsors for making these great and healthy walks possible, including: the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation, Wallaroo Hat Company, Bobo’s Oat Bars, Cedar & Hyde Mercantile, Eldorado Natural Spring Water, AMR – Boulder County City of Boulder and Longmont, Natural Grocers, SomaLogic, Parc Mosaic Apartment Homes, Embassy Suites Boulder, SALT Bistro, Elements Massage, Pedestrian Shops, Boston Scientific & Starbucks.

Join us for our next Walk with a Doc on Saturday, Sept. 14 at Tom Watson Park/Coot Lake (6180 63rd Street in Boulder) from 8-9 a.m. Dr. Karin Vanbaak, of the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center, will talk about “Walking & Bone Strength.”

Don’t forget that at each Walk with a Doc:
• BCH’s Clinical Education team will demonstrate “hands-only” CPR techniques you can learn in just minutes!
• BCH pharmacists will be on hand to answer your medication-related questions.
• There are free blood pressure checks, free giveaways and free refreshments (including coffee from Starbucks).

For a full list of walks and more details, go to