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Dehydration Affects Mental Performance, So Try Drinking Water If You Can't Focus

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Dehydration apparently not only affects the physical well-being of people, but also their mental performance, according to a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

How much water to drink in a day? The answer to that question is not as simple as eight glasses. Too little risks dehydration, while too much may lead to water intoxication. Nevertheless, people who find it hard to focus might want to try drinking water and see if it was dehydration causing their mental lapses.

Dehydration Effects On The Brain

According to a new study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, dehydration impairs cognitive performance, particularly in tasks that involve attention, executive function, and motor coordination. These activities are affected when water deficits exceed 2 percent body mass loss, the study claimed, after the researchers analyzed data from several peer-reviewed research papers on dehydration and cognitive ability.

"We find that when people are mildly dehydrated they really don't do as well on tasks that require complex processing or on tasks that require a lot of their attention," said Georgia Tech's Exercise Physiology Laboratory director Mindy Millard-Stafford.

As subjects got more dehydrated, most of them increasingly made mistakes in attention-related tasks that were unexciting and repetitive, such as pressing a button in different patterns for several minutes. Real-world cases of such activities include focusing during a long meeting, driving a car, or doing a monotonous job in a factory.

The researchers expressed concern that dehydration may lead to accidents, particularly in scenarios where people heavily sweat in dangerous environments such as around heavy machinery.

Benefits Of Drinking Water

For average-sized people, 2 percent dehydration, which is when mental performance drops off, is equivalent to sweating out about a liter of water. That might sound a lot of sweat, but it actually happens faster than most people would think.

"Most people don't realize how high their sweat rate is in the heat," said University of Connecticut professor of kinesiology and Korey Stringer Institute CEO Doug Casa. "If you're going hard during a run, you can reach that level of dehydration in about 30 minutes."

What this means is that, for people to maintain proper physical and mental performance, drinking water regularly, especially when outside on hot days, is a necessity.

Drinking water may not have been a top result when asking how to improve mental ability, but the new study shows that addressing dehydration is a possible answer.

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