What is dehydration?
Regular physical activity and a healthy diet are essential for successful and healthy aging. But exercise and fuel are just a few of the body’s needs to be healthy. People often take for granted or overlook their body’s basic need for water, which can result in dehydration.
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it takes in. During a typical day, your body needs water to regulate your body efficiently, which includes regulating your body temperature, getting rid of toxins and waste, and lubricating your joints.
Are you drinking enough water? It’s a question that many of us don’t take the time to ask ourselves. Still, it is crucial since water is essential in order for our bodies to function correctly. This blog post will discuss how much water you should drink daily and some tips for staying hydrated.
What is hydration?
Hydration replaces body fluids lost through sweating, breathing, and processing waste. The typical person must replace about 2 to 3 quarts of water daily. Luckily all this water doesn’t have to be consumed from a glass.
Many foods in our daily diets contain various amounts of water. First, many people consume fluids other than water, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, juices, and smoothies, which also count towards our daily fluid intake.
Additionally, greens like iceberg lettuce, fruits, and many vegetables contain water. But none of these can offset your need for regular hydration throughout the day.
Why does dehydration affect older adults more?
Proper hydration plays a more important role in your overall well-being as you age. The University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing conducted a study and found that up to 40% of older adults may be chronically under-hydrated, which can lead to more severe dehydration and ultimately, life-threatening infections and other health problems.
Janet Mentes, professor of nursing at UCLA, stated, “So many health issues are related to inadequate hydration,” Mentes went on to say. “The most closely linked are urinary tract infections. Many seniors are under-hydrated for a period of time, and when they are exposed to a virus or bacteria they are more likely to develop an infection, such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia or other respiratory diseases. And they will be treated for the infection, but the underlying underhydration will not be recognized. Thus, an opportunity to educate the individual about adequate fluid intake is missed.” She added that underhydration in the morning can result in falls.
What does your body do with the water you consume?
A common saying is that you can last weeks without food but only a few days without water. NASA scientists rate planets and their ability to have and sustain life based on water. We need it to live, and we need enough of it for our bodies to function correctly. But how do our bodies utilize the water we consume through foods and liquids? Here are some of the processes that water supports.
- Our blood transports nutrients and water primarily because of its liquid state.
- It helps our digestive system by assisting in the conversion of food into energy.
- It acts as an internal lubrication system for our joints.
- It helps regulate your body temperature.
- It protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues and organs.
- It enables your body to remove waste products.
What are the general benefits of drinking water?
As we age, drinking an adequate amount of water every day is crucial for our overall health and well-being. Drinking water has numerous benefits, as it helps keep our bodies hydrated and functioning properly. Water helps regulate body temperature by keeping us cool during hot weather conditions and also helps flush out toxins from our system.
It aids digestion and absorption of nutrients, can boost physical performance during exercise or other activities, and even help us feel fuller for extended periods. Additionally, drinking water can help clear up skin problems like acne and keep our skin healthy and vibrant.
Here are a few effects of hydration and dehydration:
Better skin health: Staying hydrated has a very positive effect on skin clarity. Dehydration promotes the formation of wrinkles and can lead to dry, itchy skin, rashes, or other skin disorders.
Regulation of body temperature: Your body sweats to cool your body temperature. This sweat comes from the liquid in your body, typically stored just under your skin. The inability to cool your body when you are dehydrated can cause a strain on the body.
Better kidney and liver function: Hydrating is essential for maintaining proper kidney and liver function. You need adequate hydration to filter and process nutrients and waste products efficiently.
Lower chances of developing kidney stones: One contributing factor to kidney stones is the lack of proper hydration. Liquid helps your body dissolve minerals; if there isn’t enough water available, minerals and nutrients can build up in the body and create kidney stones.
Avoiding reduced brain function: Evidence suggests that continuous dehydration can disrupt hormones and neurotransmitters needed for proper brain function. Dehydration can affect your ability to reason and focus and diminish your ability to recall short-term memories.
Ensures your body functions properly: Your body needs water to work and adequately hydrate to perform at optimum levels. Suppose you don’t have enough liquid in your system. In that case, your entire circulation will not operate as well as it should, and your organs, including your skin, will not function properly.
Improves your general attitude and mood: Not consuming enough liquids can also make you feel irritable, cranky, and tired when you’re usually not so tired. You might think you’re hungry and feel “Hangry,” but your body is not craving food; it’s proper hydration that your body wants.
Telltale symptoms of dehydration in older adults.
Seniors are typically more vulnerable to dehydration because their appetite and feelings of thirst tend to diminish with age. Their bodies may be in need of fluids, however, they may not be aware of it.
Older adults also begin to experience body composition changes that over time, results in their bodies retaining less water then they did when they were younger.
Dehydration, even low-level dehydration, can cause symptoms that make you feel uncomfortable, affect your daily quality of life, and have long-term consequences. Awareness of the warning signs can help you take action and address the condition, hopefully before it becomes a more significant problem.
Early warning signs:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Bad breath
- Darker colored urine
- Reduced urine volume per day
- Increased thirst
- Sugar cravings
More advanced warning signs:
- Extreme thirst.
- Dry eyes or eye’s aren’t tearing.
- Daily urine volume is about half of normal
- Parched mouth
- Urine is very dark in color
- Confusion disorientation
- Feel dizzy and or lightheaded
- Heart palpitations
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these conditions, you should hydrate immediately and consult with your physician.
Using urine color to identify dehydration.
First, It’s important to note that some medications can cause your urine to change color. However, regardless of whether or not you’re on medication, it’s always recommended that you consult with your physician if you suspect you’re dehydrated.
Your urine can be a valuable tool to measure your hydration levels. Also, the good news is that you don’t have to go to the bathroom in a cup or risk getting your hands dirty. You can look in your toilet bowl after urinating.
If you are paying attention to your hydration levels, you’re already paying attention to the standard color of your urine. If you have yet to do this, some helpful general hints are that clear urine may mean you’re over-hydrating. You want a tinge of yellow and note that a darker color of urine could be a cause for concern.
Using the chart below, you want to be as much as possible in the Very Good to Fair range. As soon as your urine starts getting darker, it’s time to grab your water bottle. If you are at or close to the severely dehydrated level, you should drink water and consult your physician.
How much water should an older adult drink?
The amount of water you should drink daily varies depending on age, sex, activity level, and health status.
It’s important to note that older adults may require a higher daily water intake to compensate for changes in their body’s ability to regulate fluid balance. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at conserving water, and we may be more susceptible to dehydration. Therefore, older adults should aim to drink at least eight glasses (or 64 ounces) of water daily, roughly 2 liters a day if you prefer metric measurements.
It may seem like a lot at first, but it’s important to remember that your body needs water to function correctly. If you are more active or live in hotter climates, this daily intake may need to increase slightly. Pregnant women may require an additional two cups of water per day. In comparison, breastfeeding mothers need an extra four cups per day.
Remember that other beverages (such as tea, coffee, or juice) do not count towards the daily recommended water intake (however, they do count toward your daily fluid intake), so it’s essential to ensure you drink enough pure H2O throughout the day.
If you feel you’re healthy, here are some key indicators that you’re drinking enough water.
- You urinate every few hours throughout the day
- You feel in general good health
- You are rarely thirsty
It is important to always consult with a doctor about proper hydration, primarily if pre-existing health conditions are related to the heart, kidney, or liver.
Tips for keeping hydrated
If you struggle to stay hydrated throughout the day, here are a few tips that may help:
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. Water bottles will make tracking how much water you’re drinking easier and remind you to keep sipping throughout the day.
- Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning before you have your coffee or tea.
- Drink a glass of water before each meal. Doing so can help you feel fuller, which can help control your portion sizes and aid in weight loss.
- Ensure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. Exercise increases body temperature, making us sweat more than usual and dehydrate.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, spinach, etc. Not only will this provide your body with extra hydration, but it can also help you meet other nutritional needs.
- Set reminders on your phone or computer to drink water throughout the day. Reminders help keep you on track and ensure you remember to reach your daily water intake goal.
- If you get tired of drinking plain water, add lemon, cucumber, or mint leaves for extra flavor. Flavored water will make drinking more enjoyable!
- Make a habit of drinking water after using the restroom.
Is it possible to drink too much water?
Yes, it is possible to drink too much water and overhydrate. Drinking an excessive amount of water can lead to a condition called “water intoxication.” Overhydration happens when there’s too much water in the body compared to the electrolytes. Symptoms of this condition include nausea, vomiting, confusion, fatigue, and even seizures. It’s essential to listen to your body to avoid overhydration.
Feeling thirsty means you need more fluids, but don’t force yourself to drink beyond that point. Moreover, if you are engaging in physical activity or spending lots of time outdoors on a hot day, take frequent breaks for hydration and keep track of how much liquid you consume throughout the day.
If you are concerned about overhydration or symptoms, speak to your doctor about how much water you should drink.
What did we learn from this information?
Drinking enough water every day is essential for your health and well-being, especially as you age.
It helps regulate body temperature, flush out toxins, and improve digestion and nutrient absorption. Your daily water intake can vary based on age, sex, activity level, and other factors. Still, it’s generally recommended that all adults consume at least eight glasses (or 64 ounces) daily.
Now that you know how much water you should drink each day and have some tips on staying hydrated, there’s no excuse not to get enough! So remember: drink up! Your body will thank you for it.
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Harvard Medical School – How much water should you drink?
Why it’s important for you to drink water and stay hydrated
4 Spring Wellness Tips for Older Adults
Important of Hydration
The Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration in Elderly Adults
CDC – Benefits of Drinking Water
How Water Benefits the Body
How to Stay Hydrated for Better Health
Dehydration Urine Color Chart
Staying hydrated is easy when you know how
National Library of Medicine – The Effect of Hydration on Urine Color
Are You Dehydrated? Our Pee Color Chart Will Tell You
Study finds a lack of adequate hydration among the elderly
National Library of Medicine – Body composition changes with aging