SHERIDAN — As the summer heat approaches, it is time to start thinking about staying hydrated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water helps keep body temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, protects the spinal cord and assists in getting rid of wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements.
Drinking water can prevent dehydration, a condition the CDC says can cause unclear thinking. It also helps prevent constipation, kidney stones and general overheating of your body.
When you are younger, your body tells you when you are thirsty, cueing you to drink. However, as you age, your body doesn’t always give you that reminder.
“As the body’s regulatory system ages, our ability to cool ourselves or warm ourselves decreases,” explained Megan Sexton, consulting dietitian at Green House Living for Sheridan.
Signs of dehydration include chapped lips, headache, dark-colored urine and skin with a gray hue.
Which fluids are best for staying hydrated? Sexton said water is ideal, adding that you should aim for eight, 8-ounce glasses daily.
“Be willing to try water at different temperatures — cold, room temperature or even hot water,” says Sexton.
She also suggests infusing water with fruit for a refreshing alternative. Gatorade, Pedialyte, Crystal Light or sparkling water also are hydrating. Sexton recommends cutting the Gatorade with water if it is too sweet.
Sexton said caffeinated drinks such as coffee, soda and tea can be dehydrating.
“My rule of thumb is the first cup of coffee is a freebie, but after that you have to drink one cup of water for every cup of coffee you drink,” she said. “Research suggests that 200 mg of caffeine is the tipping point at which caffeine becomes more dehydrating than hydrating.”
The fluids you drink throughout the day — water and other beverages — meet most of your fluid needs. You can also eat foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables or soups with broth. Examples include celery, watermelon or cantaloupe.
Because seniors lose that physical cue reminding them to drink, they should consider setting an alarm on their smartphone to remind them it is time to drink a glass of water, Sexton said.
If you don’t have a phone alarm, consider keeping eight magnets on your fridge that you can move as you drink, she said. Eight jelly beans on the kitchen counter or table would also work.
Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in.
“It [dehydration] can be a confounding side effect of medications such as diuretics, antidepressants and medications used for nervous system disorders,” Sexton said.
Be sure to hydrate when you are exercising or anytime you are sweating, says Sexton, who also recommends increasing fluids when you are on pain killers.
According to Sexton, your body will take the fluids it needs for your heart, brain and other vital organs first. What is left over, goes to your digestive system. If you are not getting enough fluids, this can make it difficult to have a bowel movement, she explained.
“I describe it as a waterpark slide without the water,” Sexton said. “That makes people cringe.”
Seniors with limited mobility are often hesitant to drink the fluids they need to stay hydrated because they might not be able to make it to the bathroom and end up having an accident.
Sexton finds it is best if the caregiver confronts this issue directly so the individual is not so shy about it.