When you feel thirsty, you know your body is running low on moisture, which means it’s time to hydrate! That’s not so simple for older adults as aging tends to reduce your sense of thirst. So you may not realize you’re becoming dehydrated, and that can be dangerous. The easiest way to stay healthy and hydrated is to proactively ingest plenty of water throughout the day.
Water is the Foundation for Life
Every cell in your body requires moisture in order to function. Did you know that:
- Your lungs are about 83% water?
- Muscles and kidneys? 79% water.
- Your brain and heart? 73% water.
- Your skin? 64% water.
- And, believe it or not, your bones are 31% water!
It’s easy to understand just how crucial it is to remain hydrated. “Even a 1 to 2 percent water deficit is enough to lower exercise performance, impair cognitive function, and worsen cardiovascular function,” according to a study done at the Hydration Science Lab at Arizona State University.
How Much Water do you Actually Need?
It was recommended back in 1945 to drink 8 glasses of water every day. Recently, researchers questioned that formula yet concluded that it’s still accurate, keeping in mind that our bodies are all somewhat different. Your personal hydration needs depend on your body size, activity levels, metabolism, and even the climate where you live.
As many as 40% of older adults may be chronically dehydrated, and here’s why:
- Seniors often have less appetite as well as a reduced sense of thirst, so they may not be getting enough hydration from either food or water.
- Many medications common to seniors also work as a diuretic, increasing water loss.
- The body naturally produces less moisture of its own as you age.
- Aging can also affect internal temperature regulation, causing seniors to sweat more during exercise.
Getting plenty of liquids helps prevent heat stroke, urinary tract infections, cardiovascular problems, chronic disease, and kidney failure. It can help your body stay strong against infections and boost your recovery from illness or injury.
Simple Tips to Stay Hydrated
While seniors may have an elevated need, everyone needs to deliberately hydrate. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to gulp down gallons of water. That “8 glasses” refers to your total water intake, including the foods you eat. So what can you do?
Yes, drinking plenty of refreshing water is an easy solution. However, other beverages count, too. Here are some tips and suggestions to try out.
- Always carry a bottle of water with you. Sipping your way through the day is more beneficial and feels less onerous than forcing down a full glass at a time.
- Perk up your water with lemon, cucumber or apple slices. Or add flavoring that’s sugar- and calorie-free.
- Drink lemonade, sports drinks, coffee or tea. Caffeine is a diuretic, but coffee and tea are primarily water.
- Eat foods with high moisture content like stews and soups or strawberries, lettuce, spinach, celery, cooked squash, and watermelon as they all contain at least 90% water.
What if you Become Dehydrated?
It’s a good sign if you’re urinating every 2-3 hours and your urine is a pale yellow. Infrequent urination or dark, amber color warn of dehydration. Dry mouth, feeling sluggish or dizzy are signs of dehydration as well. If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is becoming dehydrated, there are a couple of ways to get a quick infusion of vital moisture:
- Drink an electrolyte-rich beverage. That might be a sports drink, but milk, coconut water and fruit juices are also good choices.
- Eat something with high moisture content, as noted in the lists above.
The best way to avoid dehydration is to ensure you’re consuming enough water on a consistent basis!