Water is one of the most important elements of proper nutrition. Learn everything you need to know with our complete guide to hydration for seniors.
Why Is Hydration So Important?
Water is essential to our survival and well-being, enabling our organs, tissues, and cells to function. Without water, our bodies would be incapable of waste removal, temperature regulation, and joint lubrication, among many other essential actions.
When you are healthily hydrated, your body is able to carry important nutrients throughout your body, flush toxins from vital organs, and maintain an appropriately moist environment for your throat, nose, and ears.
Hydration becomes even more important when you exercise. Water is necessary for your cells to synthesize energy, which means that you’ll likely feel too fatigued to work out if you’re dehydrated. Dehydration also makes it harder for your heart to pump blood (leading to a too-high heart rate) and for your body to control its temperature (leading to overheating and related issues, such as heat stroke).
Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when fluid loss is greater than 2% of your total body weight. Signs of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Intense thirst
- Infrequent urination
- Dark yellow or brown urine
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- No tear production when crying
Keep in mind that certain people will have a higher risk of dehydration, such as people who:
- Are sick (including diarrhea, vomiting, and fever)
- Have certain medical conditions (such as a bladder infection, diabetes, or kidney stones)
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Perform high-intensity workouts
- Do not drink enough fluids
- Are trying to lose weight
- Are older
How Does Aging Affect Hydration?
As we age, we become more vulnerable to dehydration due to our kidneys’ reduced ability to conserve water. Our sense of thirst becomes less accurate as well, which in turn makes us less aware that we need to rehydrate.
[Related: A Guide to Proper Nutrition After 50]
Staying Hydrated in the Winter
Hydration is important year-round, but winter poses additional challenges.
The first issue is that heating systems produce drier air indoors, automatically putting you at a greater risk of dehydration.
If you’re performing outdoor workouts during the winter, your risk increases because you feel 40% less thirsty in cold weather than in warm weather. You’re also less likely to overheat and sweat in the cold, which may cause you to drink less fluids.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
The Mayo Clinic lists the adequate fluid intake at 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) per day for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) per day for women.
That may seem like a lot, but drinking this much water becomes easier if you work it into your daily routine.
Tips for Staying Hydrated
Staying hydrated doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these tips to ensure you consume enough water:
- Carry a water bottle with you and refill it often throughout the day. This is especially important when you have an outdoor workout planned for later in the day, as you should start out well hydrated.
- Use a sports hydration pack when you are doing activities such as walking, hiking, or skiing. Staying hands-free instead of carrying a bottle makes it easier and quicker to sip continually during your activity.
- Drink warm beverages. Green teas and other caffeine-free options are a great way to get your fluids if you are not that excited about cold water in cold weather.
- Plan ahead. Keep extra water bottles in the back of your car and replenish when you use them. Hydrating after your hike or ski day is easier if plenty of extras are on hand.
- Eat your way to hydration. Veggies and fruits are packed with fluids and also give you that extra energy you need for your upcoming workouts. Start your day with plenty of these.
Eating foods that contain lots of water can help boost your daily intake and support your health. As an added benefit, eating foods that are water-rich helps reduce hunger and encourage weight loss, since they fill you up with fewer calories.
[Related: Choosing the Right Foods After Age 50]
The most hydrating foods include:
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers have the highest water content of any solid food — they’re more than 96% water!
- Celery: Celery has more than 95% water content and only six calories per stalk, making it great for snacking. It’s also high in fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K for some power-packing nutrition.
- Tomatoes: A single serving of tomatoes is just 27 calories and packed with essential nutrients! Tomatoes are also highly hydrating, with 94% water content.
- Green bell peppers: All bell peppers are very hydrating, but green peppers are especially so, with nearly 94% water content (red and yellow peppers are closer to 92%). They are also rich in antioxidants.
- Spinach: Get ready to stuff your salads with this great green. Spinach has only seven calories in each serving and is 92% water.
- Cauliflower: The top nutritional benefits of cauliflower lie in its help lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer, and supplying important vitamins and phytonutrients. Cholesterol is slightly more than 92% water.
- Strawberries: Almost everybody loves this sumptuous berry, and it’s 92% water, so it’s a great serving of hydration. A serving of strawberries is only 50 calories and has the added benefit of giving you more than your daily serving of vitamin C.
- Watermelon: At 92% water content, this fruit is delicious and hydrating. It is also one of the richest natural sources of lycopene, which is a cancer-fighting antioxidant.
- Broccoli: With only 20 calories per cup and lots of nutrients (fiber, potassium, and vitamin A and C, to name a few), broccoli is also one of the most hydrating foods — it’s 91% water!
- Grapefruit: Lower your cholesterol and enjoy the weight loss benefits of grapefruit, which has 91% water content, fuels fat burning, and stabilizes blood sugar.
How do you stay hydrated? Share your tips with us!
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