Health Check: what happens to your body when you’re dehydrated?

Toby Mündel, Massey University

Water is essential for human life. It accounts for for 50-70% of our body weight and is crucial for most bodily functions.

Any deficit in normal body water – through dehydration, sickness, exercise or heat stress – can make us feel rotten. First we feel thirsty and fatigued, and may develop a mild headache. This eventually gives way to grumpiness, and mental and physical decline.

We continually lose water via our breath, urine, faeces and skin. Most healthy people regulate their body’s water level remarkably well via eating and drinking, and are guided by appetite and thirst. But this is more difficult for infants, the sick, the elderly, athletes, and those with strenuous physical occupations, especially in the heat.

What happens when you dehydrate?

By the time you feel thirsty your body is already dehydrated; our thirst mechanism lags behind our actual level of hydration.

Research shows that as little as 1% dehydration negatively affects your mood, attention, memory and motor coordination. Data in humans is lacking and contradictory, but it appears that brain tissue fluid decreases with dehydration, thus reducing brain volume and temporarily affecting cell function.

As you “lose” body water without replacing it, your blood becomes more concentrated and, at a point, this triggers your kidneys to retain water. The result: you urinate less.

The thicker and more concentrated your blood becomes, the harder it is for your cardiovascular system to compensate by increasing heart rate to maintain blood pressure.

When your dehydrated body is “pushed” – such as when exercising or faced with heat stress – the risk of exhaustion or collapse increases. This can cause you to faint, for instance, when you stand up too quickly.

Joi Ito/Flickr, CC BY

Less water also hampers the body’s attempts at regulating temperature, which can cause hyperthermia (a body temperature greatly above normal).

At a cellular level, “shrinkage” occurs as water is effectively borrowed to maintain other stores, such as the blood. The brain senses this and triggers an increased sensation of thirst.

How much should I drink?

Normal water needs range drastically due to a number of factors, such as body composition, metabolism, diet, climate and clothing.

Surprisingly, the first official recommendation about water intake was made as recently as 2004. According to the Institute of Medicine, the adequate water intake for adult men and women is 3.7 and 2.7 litres per day, respectively.

Around 80% of total daily water should be obtained from any beverage (including water, caffeinated drinks and alcohol!) and the remaining 20% from food.

But of course, this is just a rough guide. Here’s how to monitor your own hydration:

  1. Track your body weight and stay within 1% of your normal baseline. You can work out your baseline by averaging your weight (just out of bed, before breakfast) on three consecutive mornings.

  2. Monitor your urine. You should be urinating regularly (more than three to four times per day) and it should be a pale straw or light yellow colour without strong odour. If less frequent, darker colour or too pungent, then drink more fluids.

  3. Be conscious about drinking enough fluids. Your fluid consumption should prevent the perception of thirst.

The Conversation

Toby Mündel, Senior Lecturer, School of Sport and Exercise, Massey University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Australian Songs for Australia Day

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Australia Day

There is no-one that loves Australia as much as me. I am Australian and I love this country. It is the best country on earth. However, celebrating Australia Day is something I become more uncomfortable with each year. Why? Because there is a significant portion of our population who have their nose rubbed in it every year on this day – this day that marks the anniversary that their land was invaded by Europeans – this day that conveniently forgets that this country wasn’t settled/pioneered on and from that day, for it was already settled by other nations – this day that marked the beginning of countless atrocities against the traditional owners of this land. Yes, I am Australian and so are they, so please remember our original Australian patriots on this day. Perhaps a change of day in the future should be considered? Just a thought.

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Reforming bankruptcy laws is the first step – next, remove the stigma

Jason Harris, University of Technology Sydney and Michael Murray, Queensland University of Technology

In Australia, there is a lingering belief that bankruptcy should not be “too easy”.

The federal government’s plan to reduce the period of bankruptcy from a minimum of three years to one year, announced in December’s Innovation Statement, has been criticised for allowing debtors to avoid the consequences of their misconduct.

But this view misunderstands the role of bankruptcy law in a modern economy and arguably conflates the role of bankruptcy and criminal law. In fact, what is needed in addition to legal changes is a shift in the way Australians think about bankruptcy.

Modern personal bankruptcy law attempts to balance competing public interests of rehabilitating debtors and allowing them a fresh start, with the need to discourage reckless borrowing and spending and abuse of the credit and insolvency system.

But bankruptcy as a crime has had a long history, arising out of an early need to allay the violence and mayhem occurring through Roman debtors not paying their creditors, by imposing some order and authority on the warring parties.

This authority sought to divide up the debtor’s assets among the creditors; but the idea of protection of the unfortunate debtor did not arise until later. The first modern bankruptcy laws developed in the 16th century in England and sought to provide administrative order to commercial debt recovery.

Non-business bankruptcy was treated as a crime, with debtor’s prisons existing until the late 19th century. The growth of middle classes after the industrial revolution and the drive to encourage and broaden entrepreneurial risk taking helped change society’s treatment of all bankrupts (both business and non-business) and the goal of protection and rehabilitation became more important.

At the same time, bankruptcy continues to involve the bankrupt losing most of their property, including the family home, and any cash, shares or other property, including their passport, and anything other than household furniture and a cheap car.

There are requirements to repay creditors through contributions from income, above a certain level; restrictions imposed on obtaining credit and with credit agencies reporting the bankruptcy; and restrictions on being a company director and on retaining licenses to work in certain trades and professions.

A failure of a bankrupt to comply with their obligations can result in the extension of their bankruptcy to five or even eight years. Failure to file a list of their assets and liabilities can result in the bankruptcy continuing indefinitely, at least until the bankrupt complies.

Most of these impacts are expected to remain whether bankruptcy is one year or longer.

Our 21st century laws even connect bankruptcy with serious crime, and treason, and impose criminal sanctions, including imprisonment, for breaches by bankrupts of many of these obligations. And there is still the stigma of bankruptcy, of being labelled as someone who could not manage their finances and left their creditors unpaid, and who otherwise might be seen as morally suspect.

The government doesn’t propose to lessen these rules. Those who suggest that bankruptcy is an easy option are ignoring the range of penalties and limitations that apply to bankrupts. Given the fact that bankruptcy can release a debtor from debts of $20,000, or $20 million, the law – and society – acknowledges that some accountability and consequence be imposed. It is a matter of degree and of balance.

But the government has opted for a fresh approach to unpaid debt in personal insolvency, given it is a more emotive area than the relative anonymity of corporate losses.

Australia is seen internationally as having a rather harsh view of unpaid debt. But punishment and deterrence can only achieve so much when it comes to discouraging reckless borrowing or profligate spending.

A person might well not pursue their innovative business idea if the consequence of it not working were jail, or at a less extreme outcome, a long period of bankruptcy and the loss of most if not all of their property. Creditors also need a predictable, transparent and fair system for collecting their debts.

For that reason, many other countries are refocusing their insolvency laws more on rehabilitation and a constructive approach to business rescue.

The government is trying to shift the balance in favour of risk and innovation, with its potential for promoting economic growth, and to move the language away from retribution and failure, an important aspect of cultural change. But merely reducing the period of bankruptcy won’t be enough.

The public narrative and perception around financial failure and insolvency, both personal and corporate, need to change if we are to embrace an entrepreneurial and innovative business culture.

Changing the law is perhaps the easier part, with initial public support needed, followed by a shift in public perception in order to allow the law to be fully effective.

The Conversation

Jason Harris, Associate Professor in corporate, commercial and insolvency law, University of Technology Sydney and Michael Murray, Visiting Fellow, QUT, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Four psychological tricks to help stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Neil Levy

Every year, millions of people around the world make New Year’s resolutions. And every year, the great majority of us break and abandon those resolutions.

Self-control is a major problem for many of us, so failure to maintain our resolutions isn’t surprising. But is it inevitable? Is there anything we can do to make it more likely that we stick to our resolve?

Psychology research can help: here are four things you can do to make it more likely that, this year, you maintain your resolutions.

Intentions, constructions and bundles

First, you can form implementation intentions. Multiple studies show people are much more likely to follow through on an intention to do something – say, exercise more – if they form the intention to do it when they encounter a cue.

Rather than just intending to exercise more, you might form the intention to set off jogging when the alarm goes off. Forming an implementation intention automates preparation for the behaviour when the cue is encountered. And that makes following through more likely.

In one study, for instance, women who formed food specific implementation intentions lost twice as much weight as a control group of dieting women.

Second, you can focus on abstract properties of events and things rather than concrete properties. Suppose your goal is to eat more healthily, and you’re tempted by a doughnut.

A focus on its concrete properties – its sweet stickiness, for instance – tends to promote consumption. But a focus on its abstract properties, the properties it shares not only with other doughnuts but the broader set of things you find tempting, tends to promote self-control.

You might think of the challenge not as “eat this doughnut or not?” but “eat unhealthy food or not?”.

Focusing on a donut’s concrete properties – its sweet stickiness, for instance – tends to promote consumption.
Fatima/Flickr, CC BY-SA

This is an application of what’s known as construal level theory to the problem of self-control. In general, construing things in more abstract terms tends to facilitate more rational thought and behaviour, possibly because it makes more salient the reasons why we want to exercise self-control in the first place.

It’s the effects of a pattern of eating doughnuts – not of eating a single doughnut – that we want to avoid, and these patterns and their effects are abstract properties. In contrast, the low-level properties of a temptation make salient the ways in which it’s immediately rewarding.

Relatedly, you can engage in the activity American psychiatrist, psychologist, and behavioural economist George Ainslie calls bundling choices.

When you bundle choices, you don’t see them as discrete episodes, unrelated to one another. Rather, you see your current choice as representative of a recurrent challenge.

You can bundle choices by regarding yourself not as choosing just how to act now, but rather as choosing how to act now and on every subsequent occasion. I might see my choice whether to eat a doughnut with my coffee as predictive of how I will act in similar situations in the future (whenever I go to the cafe, for instance), thereby bundling my current choice with my future, similar, choices.

Just like focusing on abstract properties, bundling helps people to make choices they’re less likely to regret later.

Sustainable self-control

There’s some evidence that self-control is a limited resource: the more you use up, the less you have available for future challenges until the passage of time and rest restore your self-control capacities.

The third strategy you can employ to maintain your resolutions, then, is to restore your self-control relatively rapidly. Several things seem to help.

There’s positive affect, which involves boosting your mood, say, by watching a funny video. Exposure to nature also helps restore depleted self-control.

Eating sweet foods helps too, though that’s a problem if what you’re trying to control is your tendency to eat too much junk, especially since it turns out artificial sweeteners don’t help. One experiment showed that while subjects who drank sugar-sweetened milkshakes had their depleted self-control restored, milkshakes flavoured with artificial sweeteners didn’t help at all (despite the fact that people were at chance when it came to guessing whether their drink used sugar or not).

If you want to eat less chocolate, don’t buy the family size bar and rely on your willpower to ensure you stick to fewer squares later.
Jamie Henderson/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Why artificial sweeteners don’t restore self-control, but sugar does, is currently unknown. Fortunately, more recent research has shown that it’s not necessary to actually consume the sugar sweetened food to get the benefits: swishing a sweet drink around your mouth and then spitting it out is just as effective.

If self-control is a limited resource, then we can avoid expending it unnecessarily: we can save it until we need it. The fourth strategy for keeping our resolutions, more generally, is avoiding temptations. This seems, and is, obvious, but its importance may go unrecognised.

Perhaps people think willpower is more effective than it actually is. Or perhaps they fail to recognise it diminishes with use and across the day (consider how much more likely you are to eat sweets in the afternoon). So they don’t employ this strategy of avoiding temptation as often or as effectively as they might.

If you want to eat less chocolate, don’t buy the family size bar (or fall into the old two-for-the-price-of-one trap) and rely on your willpower to ensure you stick to just three squares tonight. When you’re tired, you might find it hard to stick to your resolve.

Better to buy a small bar: that way, the hassle of going out to buy more will probably be too great for you to give into your desire for another square of chocolate.

You can avoid temptation by choosing the lolly-free aisle at the supermarket; choosing a route home that doesn’t go past the pub; or the bakery, and so on. There’s evidence this kind of strategic approach to self-control is more effective than relying on willpower alone.

It takes planning to keep your resolution, but if it’s a worthwhile decision, it’ll be worth the effort.

This article is part of our series about New Year’s resolutions, A Fresh Start.

The Conversation

Neil Levy, Professor of Philosophy

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Time for a reset? How to make your New Year’s resolutions work

Lisa A Williams, UNSW Australia

New Year’s resolutions are set with the best of intentions. But they notoriously fail to translate into lasting behavioural changes.

The new gym membership falls into disuse come February; items forbidden from the new diet sneak back into the pantry by March. Even goals to work less and spend more time with friends and family seem to fall by the wayside almost as soon as the holiday break is over and the brimming email inbox beckons.

But recent psychological research highlights several reasons why these kinds of resolutions might actually work – as well as simple ways to set yourself up for success.

The fresh start effect

A series of recent studies supports the idea that the start of a new calendar year spurs initiation of activities related to self-improvement. They show Google searches for the term “diet”, gym attendance, and use of goal-support websites are highest in January and decline month by month over time.

Researchers doing the studies call it the “fresh start effect” – the idea that particular days and dates serve as temporal landmarks, much like physical landmarks serve as demarcations of important places. In the case of temporal landmarks, the demarcation is between a past self, who has perhaps failed to meet goals, and the present self, who has goal pursuit at their fingertips.

An additional set of studies, published recently in the journal Psychological Science by the same team, looked into this effect in more detail. In one experiment, participants asked to think about New Year’s Day as a meaningful day visited more websites related to goal-support (and spent more time browsing them) than those who were asked to think about it as an ordinary day.

A temporal landmark like New Year’s mentally separates people from their past selves.
Dafne Cholet/Flickr, CC BY

Directly speaking to the idea that a temporal landmark mentally separates people from their past selves, another experiment in the series established that framing a character in a short story as experiencing a new beginning led participants to perceive that character as different from who they’d been in the past.

Importantly, that past/present differentiation statistically explained the effect of the new beginning on how much participants believed the character would pursue a previously unmet goal. In other words, the reason why goal pursuit flows from a new beginning is because of a perceived separation from past selves.

Another reason why temporal landmarks may work to promote goal pursuit is that they spur a search for meaning in life. Research from 2014 shows people whose ages end in the digit 9 (29, for instance or 39, and so on) report more desire for having a sense of meaning in life.

It’s not far-fetched to imagine that the end of the year (rather than a decade) might spur similar soul-searching. And that, in turn, can engender goals for self-improvement.

Effective New Year’s resolutions

There are several ways to set yourself up for success with your New Year’s resolution. Here are a few relatively easy, research-supported methods.

Let the calendar be your guide: the “fresh start” research discussed above shows a similar goal-boosting effect for the start of the month (with activity peaking at the 1st of the month and declining towards the 30th or 31st). It even works for the start of the week (with activity peaking on Monday and declining through to Sunday). And there’s also a boost around birthdays and national holidays.

Clearly, the calendar itself can help in re-committing to goals. From this view, “a case of the Mondays” could be the impetus to revisit the gym, shut off email in the evening, or trade spaghetti bolognese for salad.

As you ring in the New Year, look around for those with whom you can set collective resolutions.
PROVíctor Nuño/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Don’t go it alone: setting a goal with friends can be the setup for success. One research study found signing up for a weight-loss program with friends and having that social support reinforced over time resulted in an increase from 75% to 95% in course completion. It even resulted in an increase from 24% to 66% in weight-loss maintenance, compared to signing up alone and receiving treatment not focused on social support.

As you ring in the New Year, look around for those with whom you can set collective resolutions.

Set a range: Many people are tempted (or even told) to set a specific goal. But research suggests that setting a range for a goal (planning to lose five to ten kilograms) rather than a specific target (aiming to lose eight kilos) will likely be more effective.

In research where participants were given a bag of M&Ms and asked to eat as few as possible across 25 minutes, the average consumed five. But participants who set a range goal of how many M&Ms to eat (on average, between three and eight) rather than a specific number (on average, five) reported that their goal seemed simultaneously more challenging and more attainable.

They also felt more accomplishment at the end of the 25 minutes as well as more interested in pursuing the goal again. The researchers who did that study found similar effects across a range of contexts, including weight loss and spending money.

These tactics will help you leverage the “fresh start” of the New Year to get ahead. Let the rhythm of the calendar push you, find a buddy, and set a range for your resolution. Science will be on your side.

This is the first article in our series about New Year’s resolutions, A Fresh Start. Look out for more articles on the topic in the coming days.

The Conversation

Lisa A Williams, Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Been A While

Been a while. It’s been a while for many things, but I especially mean this Blog – at the moment anyway. The truth – I couldn’t be bothered. That is, I couldn’t be bothered to post here in recent times. Why? I have struggled with many things other recent years – it’s called undiagnosed depression. It’s the depression you have that you haven’t seen anyone about, yet you know what it is and still try to live in denial. But that has changed a little – I’m no longer in denial, I just couldn’t be bothered seeing anyone about it. You know, it will work out in the end – whenever that might be.

Having said that, things are a lot brighter at the moment. Have I turned a corner – I hope so. It feels like I have, with a measure of joy returning to what had become a rather miserable existence. I guess the fact that I’m writing anything (well typing) here is a sign that perhaps I have – turned a corner I mean. I’m sure there will be some setbacks ahead, but at the moment, I’m just taking in the sunshine and enjoying the rays as they fall on my face, with that gentle breeze refreshingly drifting across the surface of my face. It is time to once again step out into the wide world and enjoy the life I have been given.

Over the Christmas ‘silly season’ I hope to pitch my tent beside a river in the mountains and just take some time out and read, sleep and relax. I’m going to try and catch my breath and think about the year ahead – all with positive intent. I want to think about some of the good things that may lay ahead – especially think about and plan some wilderness excursions, where I can really enjoy the solitude of the Australian wilderness in a wonderful, soul recharging way – alone with my Creator in His creation. I have really enjoyed that in the past and look forward to doing so once again. Anyway, my first opportunity to do so is only days away – should be good.

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Evernote Is Killing Off Its Dedicated Food App

Evernote is one of my favourite apps/web applications and this move doesn’t surprise me. I agree with the thrust of this article also – it has stagnated somewhat I think and a fresh approach may well be needed. This is a good move I think.


Evernote founder Phil Libin was succeeded as CEO by ex-Googler Chris O’Neill last month, and the new man at the top appears to be wasting little time making his mark after Evernote announced that it would cease support for its Food app.

Launched in 2011, Evernote Food was, as the name suggests, a branch of Evernote’s note-taking service dedicated entirely to culinary joys. The service was designed as a repository for recipes, restaurants and any other food-related notes. Evernote never revealed how many users it had, but, as the company focuses on its core service which appears to have stagnated somewhat, it makes sense that it is deprioritizing less essential areas. All the things you did in Evernote Food can be done in the main Evernote service, which claims 150 million registered users, or within third-party food apps for Evernote.

So, from September 30, Evernote Food will…

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Annual Leave Almost Up

My three weeks off work are almost up (only 4 days before I’m back at work – yay… NOT!). lol. Actually I don’t mind work – I enjoy the job itself. It will still be difficult to get out of this lazy routine I have managed to establish over the last little while however. I’ll have to start easing my way back to a normal body clock, etc.

I never did get to Uluru this time round – hopefully next year. There was just too much working against the trip this year, with some health issues needing to be sorted, etc. Still, the break has been invaluable and very much appreciated.

Spring has pretty much sprung here, so in lieu of a getaway during my annual leave block, I’m going to try and go camping one weekend, about 2 or 3 weeks after I get back to work. Then I hope to getaway camping for a weekend at least once a month over the warmer months.

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Swarm Gets Back Into The Game With Leaderboards

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Originally posted on TechCrunch:
In its quest to add a little fun through your (literal) journey through life, Swarm is launching version 3.0 of the app, bringing in a special new game that lets you compete with your friend network.…

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