With the cooler weather starting, you might not think about being hydrated but avoiding dehydration is a common problem for people over 65. Seniors are at an increased risk of dehydration. Quite simply, as we age, our sense of thirst diminishes and when our body needs water, we may not realize it. Fact is, water is needed for nearly every function in our body, and it’s often necessary for medication to work properly. The best way to avoid dehydration is to make an active effort to drink up.
What is dehydration? Why does it matter?
Dehydration is a condition caused by an insufficient consumption of fluids. In short, it means your body doesn’t have enough water to carry out normal functions. Hydration is essential to your body because it regulates numerous bodily functions such as digestion, body temperature, joint lubrication, etc. You lose water simply through breathing, perspiring, and going to the bathroom. If you fail to drink enough water, you can experience health complications ranging from mild to severe, including hospitalization.
People 65 years and older are more at risk.
Hunger and thirst decline with age, leading you to consume less fluids. Natural changes to your body composition reduces the amount of water in your body. Medications can also cause dehydration by increasing urination. Prescriptions for blood pressure, heart and kidney disease can use diuretics and ACE inhibitors that increase urination.
While the body can store food, it has no way to store water. You have to replenish your water supply every day. Symptoms of dehydration include dark-colored urine and/or less frequent urination, feeling weak or dizzy, headache, confusion, muscle cramps and dry mouth.
The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink enough water every day.
How much is enough? According to the National Council on Aging, seniors can calculate how much water to drink in a day by taking their body weight and dividing by three. If you weigh 150 lbs., you should drink 50 ounces of water every day.
However, if you are very active or live in a warm climate, or even take certain medications, you may need more water to stay hydrated. Now that you know how much you have to drink, here are some tips for getting your water every day:
- Carry it with you. Consider purchasing a tumbler or water bottle that marks the water levels so that you can easily track your consumption and carry it everywhere. Wherever you go, always have water on hand, even if you’re just sitting on the back porch. Sipping water throughout the day is better than trying to drink a lot of water all at once.
- Make it a habit. Start every day with a glass of water and make it a point to drink water at meals. Make it a game to make sure you get your water in during the day, with milestones to reach throughout the day.
- Eat water-rich foods. Add foods with high water content to your daily diet, such as lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and fruits like melons, peaches and strawberries.
- Get creative. While it’s best to drink water, you can change it up by adding a lemon or lime wedge, mint, fruit or berries. Try water at different temperatures, iced to room temperature to warm. How about fruit juice in a popsicle! Milk, fruit juice and seltzers are a good alternative, as well as some coffees and teas – but be careful, as caffeine can have a dehydrating effect.
Are there health benefits to being hydrated?
Drinking enough water each day can have remarkable health benefits such as healthier skin, boosted metabolism, increased brain function, and overall, more energy. It can help regulate your body temperature and even help you lose weight. Maintaining hydration can also prevent or limit diseases, infections, joint pains, headaches, and kidney stones. It can help regulate digestion, decrease heartburn and improve your teeth and gums.
So go ahead, fill up your glass with some refreshing water and make a date to hydrate!
 Nutrition and Health Eating. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
 Hydration for Older Adults (2021). National Council on Aging, https://www.ncoa.org/article/how-to-stay-hydrated-for-better-health
S7694_22-7025_enewsletter 2022_C Reviewed 10/20/22
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