Why It Is So Important To Drink Plenty Of Water
Here, at The Best of Health, we have always advocated the importance of drinking plenty of water to keep hydrated. As the weather warms up, it becomes even more important for our overall health. However, even when the weather isn’t so warm, people can wrongly assume that this is not so important to maintain our water levels but that’s not the case. At any time of year, dehydration is serious and can cause a range of symptoms which can affect our health and safety.
Research from the Royal Society of Medicine shows that a quarter of elderly people living in homes without a carer do not drink enough fluid, while people with dementia are six times more likely to be dehydrated. The issue of dehydration with elderly people, however, isn’t just about forgetfulness, nor people not being able to look after themselves to keep hydrated. The fact is as we get older we lose our sensation of thirst.
The Natural Hydration Council in London says that older people are more “susceptible” to dehydration than younger people because of a lack of the thirst sensation in the water and sodium balance, which naturally occurs as people age. The council also says elderly people often use numerous drugs and medication, which can often “overstress the normal age-related physiological changes in the [body’s] water balance.” In addition to this, elderly people may also avoid drinking water because it avoids issues with continence.
Why is Hydration Important?
We all know water is the basic requirement of all living things – in a nutshell, it keeps us alive. But water is important to our health in other ways. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says water contributes to the maintenance of our normal physical functions, as well as normal cognitive functions, such as thinking and remembering. The authority says water is also particularly important for thermoregulation. In its scientific paper, Water Related Health Claims, the EFSA says: “To protect the body’s core temperature the body produces sweat, and thereby dissipates metabolic energy in the form of heat.” This means a rise in body temperature is a consequence of reduced sweating brought about by dehydration.
Consequences of Dehydration
We all know living without water will eventually not end well for us. But there are other ways that being dehydrated can be seriously damaging to our health. The Natural Hydration Council says it can cause tiredness, headaches, reduced concentration, muscle tiredness and palpitations. In elderly people, persistent dehydration can lead to confusion, a risk of heart disease and hospitalisation.
How Much Water Should We Drink?
This is something which has been debated time and time again, but the important thing to remember is fluid requirements are individual and finding a single recommended water intake that is applicable to everyone is difficult to define. It can vary from person to person greatly, even on a day-to-day basis, says the Natural Hydration Council. There are also many factors that can affect an individual’s need for water, such as age, gender, body mass, physical activity levels and climate.
Having said that, the EFSA recommends an intake of 2.5 litres of water for men and 2.0 litres of water for women per day. Of this, they suggest that 70 to 80% of the daily water intake should come from drinks, and the remaining 20 to 30% should come from food. The NHS supports this and recommends that women should drink eight 200ml glasses and men should drink 10 200ml glasses of fluid per day. The Natural Hydration Council says very elderly people should ensure they consume at least 1.7 litres every 24 hours.
How to Test for Dehydration
The Natural Hydrogen Council says the body has special mechanisms to make sure you stay hydrated. Feeling thirsty is the obvious one – basically, your body telling you to drink more water. But the easiest way to check that you might be dehydrated is in the colour of your urine during the day. If your urine is a dark yellow colour you are likely to be dehydrated and you should drink more fluid. If your urine is a pale straw colour you are getting plenty of fluid and are well hydrated.
Five Tips for Healthy Hydration
- Make sure you always have access to water, even when out and about. It is a good idea to carry bottled water with you, so you can sip at work or when on the move.
- Drink water at regular intervals throughout the day. Remember, it is better to drink small amounts and take regular sips, rather than large volumes in one go.
- Alcohol is dehydrating, so try to balance your drinking with plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, such as a glass of water.
- Excessive amounts of caffeine can also be dehydrating. For this reason it is a good idea to quench your thirst with water before drinking beverages such as tea and coffee.
- Finally, remember, water-containing foods can contribute to your daily fluid intake. Good examples are yoghurt, soups, stews, fruit and vegetables, so make sure you include these in your diet.
Recent research has found that by increasing our water consumption, we can control our weight and reduce our intake of sugar, sodium and saturated fat. If you would like to read more about this study, please click on the Related Post below.
If you would like more advice from the Natural Hydration Council, please click on this link.
Finally, to keep up to date with issues especially relevant to the over 50s, why not sign up to our free newsletter, The Best of Friends by clicking on this link.