The Importance of Staying Hydrated

If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times—water is essential to our health and wellbeing. Have a headache? Feeling fuzzy-brained? Constipated? Fatigued? It nearly always comes back to this: Did you drink enough water?

Up to 60 percent of the adult human body is water. This miracle fluid aids in nearly EVERY bodily function: It helps rid our bodies of toxins, reduces excess sodium, brings nutrients, minerals, and oxygen to our cells, lubricates our joints, and keeps organs functioning at optimum levels.

The general rule of thumb is that adults should drink at least 64 ounces of fluids every day. That, though, is easier said than done. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 43 percent of adults drink less than four cups of water a day. Only 36 percent drink one to three cups, and 7 percent don’t drink any at all. Why is this? One of the main reasons is that as we get older, we can lose our sense of thirst and simply forget to drink enough.

Dehydration—caused by loss of salt and water in the body due to extreme heat, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and certain medications— can be problematic for any adult, but especially concerning for seniors who have a lower volume of water in their bodies. When you’re severely dehydrated, there’s not enough water to carry blood to the organs. Dehydration can lead to heat cramps, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, seizures, and hypovolemic shock—a sometimes life-threatening complication. Dehydration is one of the most frequent causes of hospitalization for those 65 and over.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration may include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Cramping
  • Weakness
  • Sleepiness or irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Fever or chills
  • Dark yellow or orange urine

Another way to determine whether your body is dehydrated is the skin test: Use two fingers to pinch skin on the back of your hand and let go. The skin should spring back to its normal position in less than a few seconds. If the skin returns more slowly, you might be dehydrated.

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you or a loved one has had diarrhea for 24 hours or more, is irritable, disoriented, or more sleepy than usual, can’t keep fluids down, or has bloody or black stools, call your family doctor. 

PREVENT DEHYDRATION

Keep water accessible at all times—taking many little sips throughout the day can add up. Jazz up water by adding fruit, drink unsweetened tea, and eat foods that are high in water content, like cucumbers, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, and apples, oranges, and watermelon. Avoid sodium and caffeine.

One UCLA research study showed that seniors who stay hydrated may experience fewer falls, so DRINK UP!

 

RESOURCES

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases  
1-800-860-8747
1-866-569-1162
healthinfo@niddk.nih.gov
www.niddk.nih.gov

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
1-301-592-8573
nhlbiinfo@nhlbi.nih.gov
www.nhlbi.nih.gov

National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs
1-202-682-6899
www.nanasp.org

President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
1-240-276-9567
fitness@hhs.gov
www.fitness.gov

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