"Captain! We're Taking on Water!"
This phrase is most commonly heard when a ship is in danger of sinking. However, there is another way to take on water, and it is far more insidious. If you have issues surrounding water retention, it is important to monitor yourself, make any possible dietary changes, and by all means, discuss the situation with your doctor.
Water retention can be a result of many factors, but it can cause weight gain which can tax the heart and affect blood pressure if it is significant enough. Here are some sight-free options to know if you're taking on water so you can be proactive.
- Weigh yourself regularly. If you can step on the scale without lots of trauma, and you are apt to retain fluid, you might want to consider weighing daily. Some fluctuation is normal, and no number by itself should give you cause to be overly alarmed. Think of the number on the scale as one of many factors you can use to help you.
- Pay attention to how you feel. If the skin of your hands feels tight, or you don't have as much sensitivity in your fingers on a given day, you could be retaining fluid. If your shoes suddenly seem too tight, you could also be retaining fluid. It tends to show up first in your extremeties -- your hands and feet.
- Ask your iPhone. No, Siri won't be able to tell you, but I find my iPhone gives me early warning that something is not right. I have intentionally used only one fingerprint to unlock my phone. If it starts to have difficulty recognizing my fingerprint, that could be an indication that I am retaining fluid. It could also be an indication that my fingerprint simply needs to be redone. It is for this reason that none of these potential warning signs should be taken seriously by itself.
- Check for pitting edema. I have had difficulty with fluid retention since my early 20's, so this has become a daily habit. Each morning, when I wash my feet as part of my shower, I press down on the top of my foot with my thumb or index finger. I do this for about two or three seconds, pressing firmly. If I can feel an indentation when I remove my finger, I know I am retaining. If you can not touch your feet, or you don't feel comfortable doing this in the shower, you can check while either sitting or standing. Press on the top of your foot or the lower part of your leg near your shin, as far down as you can reach. You can do this each day before breakfast, on a break during your work day, or after a favorite TV show. The important thing is to make it a habit. In general, people take on a little bit of water as the day passes, so it might be advisable to do this earlier in the day.
By now you may be asking, "So what? I've got extra fluid, but I have no clue why it matters or what I should do about it?" This matters because extra fluid, if left unchecked, can usher in a host of health problems, and can be symptoms of others, like high blood pressure. It is important to talk to your doctor about the possibility of adding or adjusting a medication helpful for controlling fluid retention. In general, it is best to avoid over-the-counter remedies, since they either do not work, or they can also remove important minerals from your system.
However, there are a few basic things that nearly everyone can do to reduce a minor excess of fluid.
- Those with certain conditions will want to check with their doctor before reducing their sodium, but most of us get far more salt than we need, and could stand to cut some of it out.
- Drink more water. It might seem that when you're already carrying around excess fluid, the last thing you want to do is add more. However, this is one of the most commonly prescribed home remedies to counteract fluid retention. Drinking water, not juices or soft drinks, will help to flush the excess fluid from your system.
- When you sit, elevating your feet will help get rid of some excess fluid. A recliner with a footrest works great for this. Some people elevate their feet while sleeping by placing a pillow under them.
- If you're sitting all the time, be sure to move a bit. Walk, jog, or use a rebounder. Exercises that help improve your circulation will also help flush that excess fluid out of your body, and send it back where it belongs.
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