How do I know if I’m drinking enough water?

Aging Health & Wellness

Look out for signs of dehydration and build hydration habits into your daily routine. Be mindful of situations where you may need more water.

The National Academy of Medicine guidelines recommend drinking at least 9-13 cups of water a day. However, it’s easy in the business of life to forget. By checking for signs of dehydration and building hydration habits into your routine, you can ensure you get your daily fluid needs, even without a Stanley Cup!

Thirst is often a late-stage sign of dehydration. Other signs you need more fluid include feeling cold, dizzy, tired, or hungry. You may notice more frequent headaches or a dry mouth, lips, or tongue.

While it might seem gross, you can also gauge your hydration by your urine. If you’re not going to the bathroom every 2-3 hours, or if your urine is dark yellow/starting to smell, it may be time to drink more water.

Try to drink water first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and with meals. Above all, drink water when you feel thirsty! Use a water bottle if this helps you remember. Some products have timestamps to track how often you drink during the day.

If you don’t like plain water, spice it up with some fruit. Milk, plain sparkling water, and herbal teas are great low-calorie/low-to-no sugar alternatives. Similarly, water-rich foods like cantaloupe or spinach can contribute up to 20% of daily fluid intake while being excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.

Caffeinated beverages like coffee also work! Contrary to popular belief, coffee will not cause you to lose excess fluid. Even so, avoid relying on coffee as your primary source of fluid, as high caffeine intake can cause anxiety and an increased heart rate. Steer clear of energy drinks and soda since these are often high in (artificial) sugar.

Water intake needs can vary widely based on many factors, like age, medical conditions, and activity levels. You might need more water if you’re:

➡️ Working in hot weather or doing strenuous physical activity

➡️ Suffering from diarrhea, fever, or vomiting

➡️ Pregnant

➡️ Taking a medication or have a medical condition that causes increased urination (e.g. furosemide, uncontrolled diabetes)

Older individuals are more vulnerable to dehydration because the thirst sensation decreases as we age. Older people living in long-term care facilities, with memory problems like dementia, or who have suffered a stroke may be especially at risk. Dehydration is a frequent and often hidden cause of hospital admission among older individuals.

Why all the fuss about dehydration? Water is 60% of our body weight and crucial to essential bodily functions like eliminating waste and delivering nutrients throughout the body. Small fluid deficits can negatively affect sleep quality, thinking, and mood.

Staying hydrated is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be a big thing! With small habits and closer attention to what your body says, you’re getting all the water you need.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls.

Additional Sources:

CDC (Heat Stress Guide)

National Council on Aging

Harvard School of Public Health

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