It’s important to drink enough water so the body is adequately hydrated. As we age, the lack of hydration can cause many health issues because the body needs water to function well and fight off infection. Educating seniors about how much water they need to drink and how to get it into their diet can improve health and wellness.
The importance of water to the body
Water isn’t an option for the functioning of our bodies. A woman’s body is 55 percent water and a man’s body is 60 percent water. The body relies on water for many vital functions including regulating body temperature and lubricating our joints. Here are some of the major bodily functions that need adequate water.
- Digestion: The body uses water to create saliva, which aids digestion. Saliva is formed with water, and contains enzymes that are essential to the digestion of food and liquids. Water is necessary for the body to dissolve fiber and make the bowels healthy so it can eliminate bodily wastes.
- Organ protection: Water keeps the tissues in the body moist so they can protect the spinal cord and joints. It also keeps bones and blood healthy. When you drink enough water, it keeps the eyes, nose and mouth moist and helps them to fight off bacteria and other types of infection as they try to enter the body.
- Waste removal: Drinking enough water gives the body what it needs to eliminate waste through several bodily functions; perspiration, urination and defecation. Water helps you perspire effectively to remove waste. It also helps the kidneys, liver, and intestines to work properly to remove waste from the body.
- Hydration: The body uses water every day through breathing, sweat, urination, digestion, and when fevers occur. It uses water to operate the cells and organs, and to move joints and muscles. People who exercise a lot, or live in warm climates, use more water than others. It’s important to replace the water the body is using so that it remains properly hydrated. If itis not replenished, dehydration can occur.
Seniors may not drink enough water
A study published in SAGE Open Nursing found that seniors may not drink enough water. In fact, up to 40 percent of seniors may be under-hydrated. When this happens, health risks increase because the body does not have the fluids it needs to defend itself against viruses or bacteria. As a result, they are more likely to develop an infection, like a urinary tract infection or pneumonia. The author of the study said, “Seniors will be treated for the infection but the underlying under-hydration will not be recognized. It’s an opportunity to educate seniors,” about proper hydration.
The study reported:
- Dehydration accounted for a 5 percent increase in preventable emergency department visits between 2008 and 2012
- Adults older than 65 have the highest hospital admission rates for dehydration
How much water is enough?
There is no hard and fast guideline on how much water each individual should drink in a day. Thirst is a good indication that more water is needed. In addition, a physician may recommend a certain amount of water based on health conditions. For example, it may be a good idea to drink more water to treat bladder infections and urinary tract stones. Women who are pregnant or nursing should drink more water.
One good way to know if you are drinking enough water is to look at the color of your urine. If it is clear you are drinking enough water. If it is dark, you may be dehydrated.
There are ways to get more water into your daily diet
- Drink water with meals
- Always drink water when thirsty
- Freeze water bottles and take them with you on trips and while running errands
- Choose water instead of soda
- Drink water when dining in a restaurant
- Carry a water bottle for easy access when you are at work or running errands
- Dress up a glass of water by adding a wedge of lime, lemon or orange
- Buy an infuser that adds the flavor of fresh fruit to the water
Everyone should practice good hydration habits and drink more water. It’s good for the body and good for health. Following these tips will help you get more water into your daily life, supporting a strong and well functioning body.
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