How much water should we be drinking? You’ve probably heard the advice to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day. And while that’s an easy-to-remember rule of thumb, is it actually true? Experts say yes.
These days, we have so many drinks to choose from—soda, tea, coffee, juices, plus sports, vitamin, and energy drinks. But while all these contain water, you still may not be getting enough fluids, especially in warmer weather.
Dr. Irvin Sulapas, a primary care sports medicine physician and assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor,1 says, “…if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. So, keep well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water, even before you begin your outdoor activity.”
Also be aware of drinks that make you lose fluids, like caffeinated drinks, which cause more frequent urination, or alcoholic beverages. Don't count coffee, tea, soda, beer or other alcoholic drinks into the total amount of liquid you need to stay healthy and hydrated.2
The weight of water
Did you know two-thirds of your body weight is water? That means a 120-pound person carries 80 pounds of water.3
Everything in the human body depends on water. Your liver, heart, blood, brain, stomach—without water, none of these would work. Our blood is water-based, as are cells, the basic building blocks of everything in our bodies.
According to scientists at the Mayo Clinic, the food we eat provides about 20% of the water our bodies need each day.4 But even though some foods, like tomatoes and watermelon, have high amounts of water, you'd have to eat a whole lot of them to get the same amount you’d get from eight daily glasses of water.
Hydration for seniors
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), plain water intake is lower in older adults5, while they’re also more prone to heat stress. Seniors don’t adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature and are more likely to take medicines that affect their ability to sweat or control body temperatures.6
The CDC recommends that seniors drink more water than usual during warmer months—and to talk with your doctor about how much you should be drinking during hot weather, especially if you take water pills or your doctor has said to limit fluids.
Exercise and illness affect how much you need to drink
Exercise – When you exercise, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. One easy way to remember is to think "2 + 2"—drink at least two cups of water two hours before you plan to play, work out, or just be in hot weather.
Once you get going, plan to take a break and drink about 10 ounces—that's 10 large gulps—from a water bottle every 15 to 20 minutes while you're exercising. And keep drinking after you finish.7 Remember: by the time your body says, "Hey! I feel thirsty," you may already be dehydrated.
Fruit and other snacks are another way to keep your body a little cooler. Peaches, oranges, watermelon and grapes help fill your stomach and top up your water level.8
Finally, don't forget that sometimes—like when you're swimming—you may not notice you're sweating. But you are, and you can still get dehydrated, so play it safe. Drink up!
Sickness or long-term illness – Your body needs water to flush out toxins in your system, maintain optimal function, and keep your immune system strong. Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and even cold medicines9 can all be dehydrating, so it’s important to drink plenty of liquids when you’re not feeling your best.
Signs of dehydration10
Signs of mild dehydration—treat by drinking liquid in small sips:
- Small amounts of dark yellow urine
- "Dry mouth" and tongue with thick spit
- Cramping in the arms and legs
- Deep breathing
Signs of dangerous dehydration—call 911 right away:
- Sunken eyes
- Very fast pulse and breathing
- Cold hands and feet
- Lack of energy
- Dry eyes (no tears)
Staying hydrated is just one of the habits that keeps us all healthier and feeling better. If you have concerns for yourself or a loved one about hydration, nutrition, medication or other health issues, SeniorBridge can help you decide if in-home care is right for you.
Material for this article was gathered from various sources including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Illinois.
1. Dana Benson, “Thirsty? You're Already Dehydrated,” Baylor College of Medicine, last accessed December 18, 2019, https://www.bcm.edu/news/sports-medicine/thirsty-you-are-already-dehydrated
2. “Dehydration,” Cleveland Clinic, last accessed December 18, 2019, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9013-dehydration
3. “Water in Diet,” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, last accessed December 18, 2019, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002471.htm
4. “Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed December 18, 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
5. “Get the Facts: Drinking Water and Intake,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed June 25, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/plain-water-the-healthier-choice.html
6. “Heat and Older Adults,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed June 25, 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/older-adults-heat.html
7. Brenda Jacklitsch, “Keeping Workers Hydrated and Cool Despite the Heat,” NIOSH Science Blog, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed December 18, 2019, https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2011/08/12/heat-2/
8. “Guide on How to Be Hydrated—EAT Nature's Water,” Hydration Foundation, last accessed December 18, 2019, https://hydrationfoundation.org/guide-on-how-to-be- hydrated-eat-natures-water/
9. “Why is it important to drink liquids when you're sick?” WedMD, last accessed June 25, 2020, https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/qa/why-is-it-important-to-drink-liquids-when-youre-sick
10. Benjamin Wedro, “Dehydration Facts,” MedicineNet, last accessed December 18, 2019, https://www.medicinenet.com/dehydration/article.htm