Staying Hydrated is important all year long- not just during the summer months. Why is hydration so important, especially for older adults? Learn what we can all do to increase our hydration and improve our health.
Hydration is Critical for Everyone
Even mild dehydration can leave you exhausted and feeling like you’re not functioning at your best. Water makes up about 60% of our body’s overall weight, and being adequately hydrated keeps our bodies functioning well. Just by breathing and sweating throughout the day, we lose water. In order to keep our systems in balance, we need adequate water intake to help keep electrolytes like sodium and potassium in balance which we need to keep our cells working properly.
Why Hydration Is Especially Important for Older Adults
The Cleveland Clinic writes that older adults are more susceptible to dehydration than younger people, largely due to a change in body composition. Older adults tend to eat and drink less, and feel less thirsty. However, a reduction in thirst as we age can also take a lower base level of hydration to a point where it can cause medical concerns. Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization for those over 65!
Age-Related Changes That Can Affect Hydration
- Menopause- Women often experience hot flashes, sweating, and night sweats with the hormonal changes of menopause. This can lead to dehydration.
- Nocturia– Waking at Night to Pee- This is more common in people over 60, and affects about 50% of people over the age of 50.
- Urinary Incontinence– Older people can experience various forms of urinary incontinence, such as “stress incontinence”- peeing a bit when you cough or laugh, to prostate problems or other issues that affect the bladder.
- Mobility issues- When it’s harder to move around easily, some Seniors will start to restrict their fluids in an effort to have to use the bathroom less frequently, but this can have other damaging health effects.
In an effort to avoid “having to go” all the time, some Seniors may decide to reduce their water and fluid intake. However, this is NOT a good idea, as it can lead to dehydration and other health problems, often in a short period of time.
Why We Should All Drink More Water:
- Help Maintain overall health: Adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining the proper functioning of the body’s systems. It helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, transport nutrients, support digestion, and remove waste products.
- Promote better brain function: Dehydration can affect cognitive function, memory, and mood. Seniors who are dehydrated may experience confusion, difficulty concentrating, and impaired decision-making abilities.
- Staying Hydrated Helps Prevent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): UTIs are common among older adults and can lead to serious health complications. Drinking plenty of fluids helps flush bacteria out of the urinary tract, reducing the risk of infections. In addition, adequate hydration may help prevent painful kidney stones!
- Support cardiovascular health: Sufficient hydration is essential for maintaining healthy blood circulation and preventing issues like low blood pressure and dizziness, which are more common in older adults.
How Much Water Do We Need?
You’ve probably heard the common belief that we should “Drink 8 cups of water a day.” Is this actually true? The Mayo Clinic states that:
“The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.”
Hydration from Food?
Fluid rich foods like cucumbers, watermelon, lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, berries, citrus, and melons are great ways to get extra nutrition and additional hydration at the same time.
How Can I Tell if I’m Adequately Hydrated?
One of the easiest ways is to look at the color of your urine. If it is clear or pale yellow, you are adequately hydrated. If it is darker yellow or amber, you need to be more hydrated!
Can I Overhydrate?
In rare cases, people can drink so much water, they can throw off their electrolyte balances including sodium, potassium and chloride. However, dehydration is a much greater risk. Overhydration symptoms can include nausea, headaches, cramps, weakness and confusion.
The Best Ways for Seniors to Stay Hydrated Include:
- Drinking an adequate amount of fluids: Seniors should aim to drink at least 8 cups (64 ounces) of fluids daily. Water is the best choice, but herbal teas, fruit juices, and low-sodium broths can also contribute to hydration.
- Setting reminders: Older adults may forget to drink water regularly. Setting reminders or using smartphone apps can help ensure they stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Consuming water-rich foods: Many fruits and vegetables have high water content and can contribute to hydration. Examples include watermelon, cucumbers, oranges, and berries.
- Avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol: Caffeinated beverages and alcoholic drinks have diuretic effects, which can increase fluid loss. Seniors should consume them in moderation and compensate with extra water intake.
- Using water bottles: Carrying a water bottle throughout the day can serve as a reminder to drink and make it easily accessible.
- Make Water More Appealing: Take a page from upscale hotels and add some sliced citrus, mint and cucumber, or sliced fruit to a pitcher/beverage dispenser of cold water and keep it in the fridge!
- Being mindful of medications: Some medications can increase the risk of dehydration or interact with fluids. Seniors should consult their healthcare provider to understand any specific hydration considerations related to their medications. For example, some people with specific kidney or other health issues may be concerned about their fluid intake, and should discuss their needs with their health care providers.
- Know the signs of dehydration: It’s important for seniors to be aware of the signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, dark urine, dizziness, fatigue, and confusion. If dehydration is suspected, they should seek medical attention promptly.
Signs of Dehydration
- Confusion, cranky or anxious mood
- Fatigue and weakness
- Dizziness or loss of coordination
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes.
- Muscle cramps, often due to the loss of electrolytes through sweating
- Chills or heat intolerance
- Flushed skin
- Dry skin
- Passing small amount of urine infrequently
- Darker yellow colored urine
Go Out and Hydrate
One of the best ways to stay hydrated is to carry a bottle of water with you. For those concerned about disposable plastics and the environment, consider a reusable water bottle with markings on the side to help you to drink a certain amount of water throughout the day- a great way to keep yourself on track and get in the water you need to keep yourself healthy. And if you love water cold, there are numerous insulated steel water and beverage bottles that can keep beverages cold from up to 24 hours! Just add water and ice, and you can have ice cold water at any time.
The Bottom Line
Staying hydrated, no matter the season, is important for us all. Good hydration keeps our bodies functioning and feeling better. Since dehydration is a common cause for hospitalization in Seniors, it’s important to understand proper hydration and speak with your doctor if you have specific health concerns that restrict your fluid intake. Most of all, simple steps like carrying a reusable water bottle with you can help you stay hydrated, and adding cut fruit into your water can help make “just water” a little more exciting. Water for the Win!
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