As we head into the summer months and as pandemic-related restrictions ease, you may find yourself spending more time outdoors. While you’re having fun with friends, family, or your favorite hobbies, it’s easy to forget just how important it is to stay hydrated. We all need to stay hydrated, but it’s especially important for older adults. Below, we’ll talk about why it’s important to stay hydrated and then we’ll give you 6 tips to stay hydrated throughout each day.
The first reason we need to stay hydrated is that we need water for all sorts of body functions, including:
- Muscle function
- Providing lubrication for our joints
- Regulating our body temperature
- Helping our kidneys to function properly
- Keeping our urinary tract healthy
As you get older, it’s harder for your body to hold on to fluid, due to changes in the kidneys and in muscle mass. If you have certain conditions that are more common with age, such as Type 2 diabetes, you also may find that it’s harder to get enough fluid. Certain medications like antihistamines and diuretics can make you feel more dehydrated. Additionally, having certain cognitive impairments such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may make you less aware of your need to drink more water.
One more complication: The older you get, the harder it is to recognize that your body needs more water. That’s why hydration can be a common and often overlooked problem among older adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Health issues that can arise from dehydration include:
- Dizziness, which raises your risk for falls
- Muscle cramps
- A rapid heart rate
Depending on how bad the dehydration gets, it could even lead to a hospital visit and serious health problems.
How Much Do Adults Need to Drink to Stay Hydrated?
The general recommendation for staying hydrated is eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day. If you need one tip to stay hydrated, it is this.
One way to confirm you’re getting enough water is to check out your urine. If it’s a light yellow color, you’re probably hydrated enough. If it’s darker, then it’s definitely time to drink up more. However, you should always double check with your health provider about the right fluid level for you. Some health conditions, such as heart failure, can alter your fluid needs. Spending more time out in the sun also increases how much you need to drink.
Of course, water is the best way to rehydrate but does it get boring sometimes? Sure! Fortunately, there are some ways that you can rehydrate that go beyond just plain water:
- Decaffeinated teas
- Water with fruits or vegetables added, such as cucumber, orange, or strawberry slices
- Food with high water content, such as watermelon or apples.
- Juices or sports drinks, but keep in mind that these can be high in sugar. Try adding a splash of these to water to avoid ingesting too much sugar.
- Soups and broth
Soda and coffee can slightly help your fluid intake but they shouldn’t be a big portion of what you drink every day. Don’t rely on alcoholic beverages for hydration as they can actually dehydrate you more.
6 Tips to Stay Hydrated Each Day
Now that you know what to eat and drink for better hydration, let’s take a look at some tips to stay hydrated during the day, especially during the summer.
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to sip up every half hour or hour.
- Always have a reusable water bottle with you. This not only reminds you to drink more, it also comes in handy if you’re ever stuck somewhere or in traffic without easy access to fluids. Make sure to fill up your water bottle regularly.
- Don’t feel that you have to tank up all at once. Older adults in their 80s and 90s may find that drinking too much water at once is a challenge and leaves them feeling bloated. It’s okay to take little sips throughout the day, the Cleveland Clinic reports.
- Try drinks at different temperatures. Maybe cold water isn’t as tasty to you for whatever reason. Experiment with room-temperature or slightly warmed water. Warm soups can be a great way to get more fluid if someone is resistant to cool water.
- Plan to drink a full glass of water when you take medication. This is one of our favorite tips to stay hydrated as it’s easy to remember and you know you’ll have a glass of water in front of you when the time comes for medicine, which is often with meals.
- Drink before you feel thirsty. That’s why sipping throughout the day can help boost your fluid intake, according to the National Institute on Aging.
What Are the Signs of Dehydration in Adults?
Just like you should watch yourself to make sure you you these tips to stay hydrated, you also should monitor for signs of dehydration. In older adults, the signs of dehydration can be easily confused with other effects of aging or with medication-related side effects. Here are some signs of dehydration:
- Difficulty walking
- Drier skin, mouth, lips, and tongue
- Feeling more tired
- Having constipation
- A more rapid heart rate
- Not urinating enough or having darker urine
If dehydration is mild with only emerging symptoms, make sure to drink up and consider adding a sports drink or electrolyte drink to help your body. If you or someone else you care for is confused, passing out, falling, or having other more serious effects from suspected dehydration, go to urgent care or the emergency room.