MILAN – During this period of great stress for young people, obligation and perseverance are most certainly the two main trump cards most likely to help you succeed in a test you will remember for the rest of your life, but further help can also come from proper hydration: various studies have in fact shown how inadequate hydration not only negatively affects physical performance, but also and even especially, cognitive performance. One important piece of somewhat alarming information is that the loss of just one litre of water will dehydrate brain tissue, producing effects on its functioning which resemble those observed following two and a half months of Alzheimer’s disease.
The effects of dehydration
And if a recent study from Loughborough University asserts that dehydration causes a drastic decline in alertness amongst car drivers and leads them to make the same number of errors as someone driving over the alcohol limit, imagine how much an inadequate level of hydration can affect your studies? The brain is in fact made up of 85% water; an element which is especially necessary for the tissues and high levels of metabolic activity: even moderate dehydration, therefore, will lead to fatigue and reduced levels of concentration, as well as headaches and a slowing down in the performance of simple tasks.
The importance of proper hydration
Dr. Alessandro Zanasi from the San Pellegrino Observatory, a lecturer at the University of Bologna, explains: “The young are more exposed to the risk of dehydration compared to adults, because of the higher ratio between their body mass and surface area, or between the amount of fluid they carry within them and their body weight. In situations of stress, as the final exams certainly are for so many Italian students, there is a tendency to dissipate more water, besides fluids being lost due to the higher temperatures typical of the summer period. It is therefore extremely important to maintain an adequate level of hydration, in order to keep levels of concentration and alertness high under stress, as well as benefiting the memory”.
Remedies for coping with the maturità* exams
However, with a few, simple precautions, it is possible to guarantee youngsters an adequate level of hydration. Surely an excellent solution is to carry a bottle of water with you at all times – in the library for last minute revision, on your desk at home, or in the school corridors while waiting to go into the exam – drinking frequently (at least every hour), and not waiting till you feel thirsty. “In this context, water which is rich in minerals is especially recommended, to replenish the salts lost through perspiration. One of the most important elements for you is calcium – continues Alessandro Zanasi – since it is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses and is useful for promoting cognitive processes”.