Ah, the joys of summer — the longer days, the warmth of the sun, fun activities of working in the garden, wading by the pool or packing a fine picnic lunch. With the short summer we have, there is often a panic to “fit it all in” before the looming thought of winter is upon us again. But wait! Did you pack enough to drink?
Did you know that as people age, their sense of thirst diminishes? Mix that with less water composition in the bodies of older adults, and the risk of dehydration increases. Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in older adults. It is said that by the time one feels thirsty, it is already an indicator of the early signs of dehydration.
So why is hydration so important? The human body is made up of 60% water. Staying hydrated helps to lubricate joints, help maintain/improve cognition, and boost energy and mood. It normalizes blood pressure, removes bacteria from the bladder, flushes out the kidneys, and helps detoxify the skin. It can even improve sleep!
What are the signs of dehydration?
- dry mouth and/or dry skin in the armpit
- high heart rate (usually over 100 beats per minute)
- low systolic blood pressure
- delirium (new or worse-than-usual confusion)
- sunken eyes
- less frequent urination
- dark-colored urine
A quick trick to check your hydration is to pinch the back of your hand. If the skin remains elevated after pulling it back, it could mean that you need more water to drink and are showing signs of dehydration.
How can you stay hydrated? Packing seasonal fruits and veggies, such as watermelon and cucumbers, can make a great snack on the go and keep you well hydrated. Another fun way to stay hydrated is to drink coconut water or add it to smoothies. Coconut water helps replenish electrolytes that are lost during exercise, and it tastes great, too! Avoid any physical activity when the humidex is 40 or higher to prevent the risk of heat stroke. Sit in cool, shady areas rather than under direct sunlight, or wear a hat if shade is not accessible. It is important to remember to drink small amounts of fluids regularly, as it can be harder to drink larger amounts at one time. Having a water bottle close by at all times is a great reminder to keep drinking throughout the day. If it is too difficult to drink from a water bottle or a cup, try using a straw. Lastly, avoid or limit beverages such as alcohol, coffee, tea or cola, as these have a diuretic effect, which will cause increased urination and potential dehydration.