Dehydration and ACLS: How Dehydration Affects your Heart Health

Dehydration and ACLS: How Dehydration Affects your Heart Health

Lauren Diffendarfer

by Lauren Diffendarfer

Medical Educator

posted on Apr 23, 2015, at 9:43 pm


“DRINK MORE WATER!” You practically hear it everyday, but do you know why?
Dehydration can occur for several reasons, such as excessive perspiration, diarrhea, fever, or excessive urination and is prevented when an individual drinks enough fluids. Dehydration affects both your mind and body, and can result in detrimental health consequences, and in the most extreme cases even death. Most health professionals recommend 8 to 10 glasses of water everyday, depending on your age, weight, height and sex for healthy people under normal activity.

woman dehydrated in desert
Symptoms of Dehydration can include:
1. Headaches and migraines

2. Fatigue

3. Distorted mental status

4. Constipation

These bothersome
symptoms can typically be resolved if the dehydrated individual simply drinks water. While these side effects are typically considered a temporary and mild annoyance, more severe cases of dehydration can require medical treatment, such as receiving fluids and electrolytes by IV. Untreated, the worst cases of dehydration can actually have a severe impact on the cardiovascular system and require advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) care.
Dehydration Conditions That Could Require ACLS
1. Abnormal blood pressure

Dehydration can cause both low and high blood pressure, according to Initially, the body will attempt to retain as much water as it can, and retain more sodium to achieve this. As volume continues to drop due to lack of water, the body will further compensate by constricting capillaries. This helps maintain blood pressure to the body’s core by shunting it away from the extremities. If blood pressure cannot be maintained this way, fainting and dizziness may result from decreasing blood pressure and inadequate blood flow to the brain.
2. Tachycardia

Tachycardia, a term that describes a rapid heart rate, occurs due to the body’s attempt of managing abnormal blood pressure from dehydration. The body attempts to compensate for lower blood volume by circulating the blood faster. As heart rate increases, the resulting tachycardia may become symptomatic. If these symptoms become severe, such as causing chest pain or passing out, it is recognized by those trained in ACLS, as it is a cardiac emergency that requires urgent care.
3. Orthostatic hypotension

If you’ve ever felt dizziness or lightheadedness after quickly standing up from a vertical position, you were most likely experiencing orthostatic hypotension. This happens due to the inability for one’s body to adjust heart rate and blood pressure from a change in positioning. These symptoms can be caused by many factors, but the simplest way to help prevent orthostatic hypotension is to avoid dehydration.
4. Declined cardiac output

Cardiac output is the volume of blood emitted from the heart per beat, multiplied by the heart rate. A decrease in cardiac output because of dehydration causes the heart to unable to provide enough blood to meet the needs of the entire body. Because blood volume decreases during dehydration, the heart cannot pump an adequate supply of blood.
Dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe, but can cause symptoms that could require the attention of an ACLS provider. Regardless, it’s crucial to keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of fluids daily.
We want to know: What is your favorite way to keep hydrated?

About Lauren

Lauren works as the Medical Educator for the Disque Foundation and has worked closely with us since 2014. She is a full-time student pursuing a BS in Biology at Indiana University as a recipient of the Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship and hopes to attend medical school to become a physician in the future. She is certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and she is also a certified Basic Life Support Instructor for the American Heart Association. She stays heavily involved with health care in and out of her local community, helping plan and coordinate Disque Foundation events, teaching lifesaving skills to the communities and organizations that we serve and volunteering at her hometown hospital in the Birthing Unit.

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