With the dog days of summer at hand, proper hydration is a priority. Though older adults can become dehydrated quickly, there are simple steps you can take to help prevent dehydration.
“As we age, we become more vulnerable to lower water intake,” remarks Amy Batti, registered dietician with Chicago Methodist Senior Services. “We encourage our senior population to ensure adequate water intake, especially during these summer months when they’re more susceptible to becoming dehydrated.”
Indicators of Dehydration
In addition to taking preventative measures, you should understand what happens when dehydration may be occurring and be ready to take action.
Thirst is typically the first sign of dehydration, because a loss of one to two percent of the body’s water drives thirst. However, this may not always be an easy indicator. “The problematic thing is, many seniors have a diminished sense of thirst and they don’t necessarily know they’re on their way to dehydration,” explains Batti.
Another sign of dehydration is dark-colored urine. Proper hydration produces clear or pale-yellow urine. While certain vitamin supplements can darken urine, dark color is often a sign of lacking fluids. In order to prevent dehydration, this is something you should pay particular attention to.
When the body has lost two to five percent of its water, symptoms vary. Dry mouth, flushed skin, headache, fatigue, and impaired physical performance may result. Beware of increased body temperature, increased pulse rate, labored breathing, dizziness and weakness.
Three Quick Tips to Help Prevent Dehydration
Carry a Water Bottle
Batti points out that the human body needs 48 to 64 ounces of water per day, depending on an individual’s weight and composition. Drinking six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water should be enough for seniors to prevent dehydration.
To ensure you consume enough water, make a water bottle your accessory for life. “Just keeping the bottle at your side reminds you to stay hydrated,” advises Batti. When you finish the bottle, refill it.
If you don’t have a water bottle or are unable to carry one around at all times, take a drink of water at every opportunity to help prevent dehydration. Begin the day with a full glass of water. Take a sip from every water fountain you pass. Schedule water breaks so you don’t forget.
Engaging in physical activity increases your need for water. To be certain that you prevent dehydration, drink water before, during and after moderate activity. Hydrate before and after light physical activity.
Mix Up Your Hydration
Just drinking water can get boring, but other fluids are also quite hydrating. Milk has a high water content. Broth-based soups, fruit and vegetable juices can also replace a few of those daily glasses of water and help you prevent dehydration.
Certain foods have high water content as well. Add some watermelon, cucumber or citrus fruits to your diet. Applesauce or yogurt are good hydrating treats as well. Or, fruit gelatin is a fun way to get a little more liquid in your day.
Infused water is an inexpensive way to make regular water more flavorful. Dropping some fruit, vegetables or herbs in a pitcher of water provides a gentle flavor.
Modify Activities That Cause Dehydration
The high temperatures of summer mean indoor activity is ideal when seeking to prevent dehydration. “I would recommend doing indoor activities on days with excessive heat to eliminate the risk of becoming dehydrated,” advises Batti.
If nature is calling your name, you can still enjoy outdoor exercise in the early morning or after sunset. That way, you can allow some time for the heat of the day to dissipate before getting too active.
Carrying a water bottle, mixing up your hydration methods, and avoiding activities in the heat go a long way to prevent dehydration and its potentially dangerous effects.
Listen to Living Well for our interview with Amy Batti, registered dietician with Chicago Methodist Senior Services, here.