It’s been so hot lately! And with the heat rising, so does your chance of dehydration and heat-related illness. There’s no universally accepted rule for how much water each of us should drink. Experts say the ideal amount can vary widely depending on factors including your weight, health and activity level. But don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. By the time you feel thirsty, it’s possible that you’ve lost a small percentage of your body’s fluid. What’s even more surprising is that this warning system of thirst doesn’t always function well in older adults. As people age, they are less able to perceive their own thirst, so they are more at risk for dehydration. Seniors are also at greater risk for dehydration because of how body composition changes with age. Older adults have less water in their bodies than younger adults or children.
Signs of dehydration
In addition to thirst, your urine color can indicate dehydration. When urine is dark, it’s a sign that it’s more concentrated from less fluid in your body. The ideal color is pale, straw-colored or lighter. Another test you can do at home is to weigh yourself every morning. If you’ve lost a pound or two from the day before, you could be dehydrated. In general, a change in body mass like that doesn’t happen that quickly. Signs of more severe dehydration can include a dry mouth, headache, decreased urine output, increase in pulse, and lack of sweat. You might also feel fatigued, nauseous, lightheaded or dizzy.
How to prevent dehydration
It’s important to drink frequently throughout the day. Water is the best option since it’s most hydrating. Juice is another good option, but it’s usually high in sugar. Experts also recommend avoiding alcohol since it is dehydrating. And be mindful of your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a mild diuretic, which means it causes you to eliminate an increased amount of fluid from your body. Many foods are also hydrating. Foods such as cucumbers, celery, zucchini, watermelon, strawberries and cauliflower are high in water content.
Water is necessary for nearly every bodily function, from lubricating joints to regulating body temperature and pumping blood to the muscles. So not getting enough of it can have serious health consequences. Make sure you stay hydrated and especially during these hot months.