The human body is 60 percent water. The importance of staying hydrated is a matter of survival. Water for seniors is essential for everything from digestion and joint lubrication to body temperature regulation and transporting minerals, nutrients, and oxygen to cells.
Water helps keep your body functioning the way it should, running at optimal condition.
Recently, numerous research studies suggest a correlation between dehydration and lowered levels of cognitive function, making the wonder of water, especially for older adults, something to pay attention to.
Drink, So You Can Think
Have you ever had one of those days where, as the day progresses, your thoughts are little more jumbled, you find it more difficult to concentrate, your brain takes on that “fuzzy” feeling, and your mood has suddenly changed? Most of us would simply chalk it up to being tired. And, of course, that’s a legitimate reason for feeling those changes in cognitive function. But researchers suggest there may be an additional factor contributing to fuzzy-brained, muddled thinking: dehydration.
A growing body of evidence reveals that even mild dehydration may cause “dips in mental sharpness,” especially in older adults. The issue of dehydration is often further impacted because, as we age, we don’t recognize the signs of thirst as well as we used to.
In a discussion about dehydration with Everyday Health, Kaiser Permanente physician Dr. Alp Arkun, MD, specializing in emergency medicine said that the “thirst drive declines after age 50, putting older people at greater risk of becoming dehydrated than younger adults.”
Recognizing the Signs of Dehydration
Our bodies are designed to tell us when we’re dehydrated — we feel thirsty. So, if the thirst drive doesn’t kick in, how can we recognize that we’re on the road to dehydration before it becomes a more serious issue?
It goes back to that 60 percent. When our body’s supply of water begins to dwindle, it tells us in many ways. If you experience three or more of these tell-tale signs, then it’s time to take a water break.
According to Legacy Healthcare Services, additional early warning signs of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Heart palpitations
- Decreased urine output
- Dark urine
In fact, the urine color test is one of the most common ways to spot dehydration. When properly hydrated your pee should be diluted, appearing clear or light yellow (the color of straw or lemonade). If your pee is medium yellow to dark yellow or orange in color, it’s time to drink more water immediately.
Causes of Dehydration
Well, the most obvious cause of dehydration is not drinking enough water or consuming enough liquids throughout the day. But there are some other causes that older adults need to be especially aware of.
Legacy Healthcare Services provides five of the more common causes of dehydration in older adults. These include lack of mobility, incontinence, isolation, certain medications, and various medical conditions.
Anyone affected by any of these should make a conscious effort to have ample water intake throughout the day.
How Much is Enough?
The amount of water an individual needs to stay hydrated varies based on multiple factors: gender, age, weight, muscle mass, the amount of daily physical activity, and the climate.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to daily water intake, but there are some general guidelines set by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. NASEM recommends women consume about 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water daily. For men: 3.7 liters (125 ounces) every day. Using an 8-ounce glass of water as a measure, this equates to a little over 11 glasses of water for women and about 15.5 for men.
Does that cause your bladder to expand just thinking about that much water? Don’t worry. It might be easier than you think.
Water, Water, Everywhere…
If the idea of walking back and forth to the kitchen for refills 11 to 15 times in a day seems a bit much, there’s some good news. There are plenty of ways to increase your daily water consumption, helping decrease the number of trips you take to the tap.
Professor of medicine, epidemiology, and internal health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Lawrence Appel says, “While drinking water is a frequent choice for hydration, people also get water from juice, milk, coffee, tea, soda, fruits, vegetables, and other foods and beverages as well.” Without even realizing it, we often add to our daily water intake simply by eating many of the foods already included in our diet. This includes things like smoothies, the milk in your cereal, salad (think lettuce and tomatoes), marinara sauce, soups and stews, yogurt, cottage cheese, applesauce, Jell-O, and popsicles.
On average, almost 20 percent of our total water intake in a day comes from food. Taking this into consideration, daily water consumption is reduced to 73 oz. for women and 100 oz. for men.
Does that still seem like a lot of water? Try the all-day approach.
Rather than chugging large glasses of water all at once, always have a water bottle or other source of liquid nearby. Sip at it continuously throughout the day, refilling as needed. The key to making sure you’re getting enough water every day is to treat it as a slow-and-steady race, not a sprint.
Ways for Senior to Take In More Water!
Looking to increase water intake without adding another glass of water to your menu? These 20 hydrating foods have at least 85% water content:
- Apples – 86%
- Bell peppers – 92%
- Broccoli – 89%
- Brussel sprouts – 88%
- Cantaloupe – 90%
- Carrots – 88%
- Celery – 95%
- Cucumber – 96%
- Grapefruit – 88%
- Iceberg lettuce – 96%
- Kale – 90%
- Oranges – 87%
- Peaches – 89%
- Pineapple – 86%
- Raspberries – 85%
- Spinach – 91%
- Strawberries – 91%
- Tomatoes – 95%
- Watermelon – 92%
- Zucchini – 93%