Everyone probably knows that it’s important to drink plenty of fluids when the temperatures soar outside. But staying hydrated is a daily necessity, no matter what the thermometer says. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t getting enough to drink, especially older adults. Older people don’t sense thirst as much as they did when they were younger, and often withhold fluids so they don’t have to use the bathroom as much. However, even mild dehydration can result in an increased risk for falls, urinary tract infections and medications that aren’t as effective.
A rule of thumb is that if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Warning signs of dehydration include weakness, low blood pressure, dizziness, confusion, or urine that is dark in color.
Most healthy people need about four to six cups of water each day. But even a healthy person’s water needs will vary, especially if someone is losing water through sweat from exercising, or because it’s a hot day. And, it’s possible to drink too much water only for individuals with certain health conditions, such as thyroid disease or kidney, liver, or heart problems; or taking medications that make people retain water. Check with your doctor to be sure you’re getting the right amount.
All beverages containing water contribute toward your daily needs. And it’s a myth that caffeinated beverages or those containing alcohol are dehydrating because they make you urinate. They do, but over the course of the day, the water from these beverages still leads to a net positive contribution to total fluid consumption. Drink fluids gradually, throughout the day. An easy way to do this is to have a big glass of water in the morning, and with each meal and with medicine. You also get fluids from water-rich foods, such as salads and water dense fruits, like watermelon and applesauce (Harvard Health, July 2019).