Proper hydration is important for your health


By Sharon Longo
Contributing Writer

Drinking two liters of water, about eight glasses containing eight ounces each, the so-called eight-times-eight rule, is a good daily target for proper hydration.
Drinking two liters of water, about eight glasses containing eight ounces each, the so-called eight-times-eight rule, is a good daily target.

REGION – Many statistics show that about 75% of Americans are dehydrated. While this exact number may not be backed by medical research, it is clear that water is an important necessity of life, and getting enough water is essential for good health.  


Why drink water?

Water is important for the body, making up about 60% of it, but according to Medical News Today, this differs according to age and sex. Men age 51 and up have about 47 to 67% water in their bodies, while women in this same age category have less, at 39 to 57%. While some organs are made up of a higher percent of water, such as the kidneys and brain at 75%, others body parts like the bones possess a smaller amount (20 to 25%), with the teeth having the least at about 8 to 10%. 

Water has many functions, like keeping body temperature regulated, keeping the heartbeat and blood pressure stable, protecting joints by providing a cushion, as well as removing bacteria from the body through the bladder. In addition, the eyes, nose and mouth need moisture, and water brings oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body. If your cells are not healthy, this can hinder the ability to fight infections or heal once you are ill. Recovering from an injury will also be more difficult. 

While drinking water is important for everyone, it is especially important for seniors. As we get older, thirst decreases, and many people don’t realize they need water. Some warning signs for too little water and dehydration include feeling dizzy, weak, or confused; having extreme thirst, dry or cracked lips, dry skin, infrequent urination, dark urine or low blood pressure. 

If someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they can forget that they need to drink. Dehydration can exacerbate dementia symptoms, so it can become a vicious cycle. Some experience incontinence and drink less water for this reason, and this can lead to urinary tract infections. Hydration also helps with digestion, but without water, many experience constipation and other digestive issues. Since many elderly people take medications, it is important to know that some of these can also cause dehydration. Dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance which can cause a higher concentration of potassium in the blood, as well as other issues like a heart arrhythmia. Staying hydrated helps blood volume remain at a normal level. If blood volume decreases, blood pressure can decrease as well. Since dehydration also can cause mobility issues, an elderly person can run the risk of a fall and injury.


How much water is enough?

According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy women should have a total fluid intake of about 11.5 cups per day, while for a healthy male, it’s about 15.5 cups. Keep in mind this can be from a combination of water, other beverages, and food. For water alone, two liters, about eight glasses containing eight ounces each — the so-called eight-times-eight rule — is a good daily target. When exercising or doing work that causes more perspiration, or when experiencing bouts of diarrhea, it is important to replenish the water that was lost. Drinking water with a fever is also helpful since it assists in lowering your body temperature. 

It is important to check with a doctor, however. According to a Harvard Medical School Special Health Report called “6-Week Plan for Health Eating,” certain health conditions such as thyroid disease; issues with the liver, kidney or heart; or even medications that cause water retention could all be reasons to watch water intake. So be careful not to drink too much. Your doctor can tell you the right amount for your size and health history.


Is your water healthy?

Since 2010, analyses of nearly 20 million drinking water tests showed hundreds of pollutants in tap water throughout the U.S. Some water also sits in plastic bottles, with some of these bottles containing polycarbonate plastics. Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical, can be found in many of these plastics. Research has shown that this chemical can get into the foods or drinks that are stored in containers made with polycarbonate plastics that have BPAs. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has done much research and has determined that low levels of BPA is safe, research also shows that there could be a link between BPA and possible health effects.


How can your water be healthier?

Find out what is in your water with a water testing kit, or check with your water company for its annual quality report. Utilize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Water Watch Program, which has a database you can search to find information about any contaminants, health hazards and quality of water. Finally, check the Environmental Working Group (EWG) water report for your town. 

Different types of filters produce different results. Once you know what you want to eliminate from your drinking water, determine which filters will handle this. Pitcher filters are a quick fix. Some filtration systems include countertop, under the sink and even whole house. When you know what you want to remove from the water, you will have a better idea of what reduction method will work best. Some filter types include carbon, activated carbon, and reverse osmosis. Shop around for the best filter to rid your water of unnecessary and potentially harmful contaminants, and ask a professional for help with the best options.


How to make sure you hydrate daily

It is recommended that you consume water gradually throughout the day, drinking it with each meal or when taking medication. Keep a water bottle with you when on the go, or have a cup of water on hand at home. A water app or even an hourly alarm is helpful as a reminder to stay hydrated. Having a reusable bottle that you know the capacity of, whether it’s a quart or a liter, simplifies things.

Eating foods rich in water also helps. Some of these include cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, watercress, celery, apples, lettuce, zucchini, and peaches, and many of these contain healthy nutrients, as well. Limiting alcohol, which acts as a diuretic, can help your body keep the water it needs. Smoothies can help with hydration, and while juice or sports drinks may have sugar in them, diluting them with water helps reduce that. Some people also enjoy flavoring their water with some fruit slices such as berries or lemons. All of these are great ways to hydrate, but for most people, water is still the best. Be sure to check with your doctor to see if you are taking in enough water and to find out the best way to do this.


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