The Importance Of Keeping Hydrated
We can’t survive without water. It makes up over half of our bodies and is essential for us to function properly. Want to know an extra bonus? If we drink enough water, it can make our skin look really good too. Although official Hydration week was way back in March, here at Collective Purchasing, we believe it is important to keep revising the information and importance of hydration as summer is on its way!
“Our vision is nutrition and hydration being an important part of quality care, experience and safety improvement in health and social care settings. The charter outlines the value of food and drink in the health and social care sector, to provide guidance for decision makers, service providers – profit & non-profit organisations, carers, families and those in receipt of the services” – The Nutrition and Hydration Charter.
Why is it so important to stay hydrated?
As our bodies are on average 50-65% water, so staying hydrated is really important to keep happy and healthy. Every cell, tissue and organ needs water to work properly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricates joints, so we really do need to keep our water intake on the up to have a happy body!
The human brain is composed of 95% water; blood is 82% water; the lungs are nearly 90% water..
How does my body lose water?
Water makes up more than half of your body weight. You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe! You lose water even faster when the weather is really hot, when you are physically active, or if you have a fever. Vomiting and diarrhea can also lead to dramatic water loss. If you don’t replace the water you lose, you can become dehydrated and will feel very poorly.
How you tell if you are dehydrated?
Symptoms of dehydration include the following:
- Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual
- Dry mouth
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Extreme thirst
- Dizziness or lightheaded feeling
- No tears when crying
Who is at higher risk of dehydration?
People are at higher risk of dehydration if they exercise at a high intensity, have certain medical conditions, are sick, or are not able to get enough fluids during the day. Older adults are also at higher risk. As you get older, your brain may not be able to sense dehydration and send the signals for thirst.
How much water should I drink each day?
You may have heard different recommendations for daily water intake. Most people have been told they should drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day, which is a reasonable goal. However, different people need different amounts of water to stay hydrated. Most healthy people can stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty.
If you are concerned that you are not drinking enough water, check your urine. If your urine is consistently colourless or light yellow, you are most likely staying well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber-coloured urine is a sign of dehydration.
Besides water, what else can I consume to stay hydrated?
Water is the best option for staying hydrated. Other drinks and foods can help you stay hydrated, but some may add extra calories from sugar to your diet.
Drinks like fruit and vegetable juices, milk, and herbal teas can contribute to the amount of water you get each day. Even caffeinated drinks (for example, coffee, tea, and soda) can contribute to your daily water intake. Water can also be found in fruits and vegetables (for example, watermelon, tomatoes, and lettuce) and in soup broths.
Tips for staying hydrated:
- Keep a bottle of water with you during the day. Purchasing bottled water is expensive and creates plastic bottle waste. Carry a reusable water bottle and fill it from the tap instead.
- If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink or have sugar-free squash.
- When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water. Drinking water may also contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan. Some research suggests that drinking water can help you feel full.
- If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. For example, drink water when you wake up; at breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and when you go to bed. Or drink a small glass of water at the beginning of each hour.
- Drink water when you go to a restaurant. It will keep you hydrated, and it’s free!
A 2% drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking. Dehydration can also reduce endurance, decrease strength, cause cramping, and slow muscular response.
Dementia and Dehydration facts:
- Dehydration symptoms can be confused with dementia – dehydration has symptoms in common with senile dementia symptoms, age dementia symptoms and Alzheimer’s symptoms. Rehydrating an older person can often allow them to return to a full and normal life.
- Dementia can cause dehydration – Left unchecked, dehydration can even be fatal
- Dementia can be aggravated by dehydration – The most common symptoms of dehydration include thirst, persistent fatigue and lethargy, muscle cramps or weakness, decreased urination and a dark yellow colour of the urine, nausea and headaches, dizziness, memory function loss, confusion, deep rapid breathing, and increased heart rate.
- Dehydration is an increased danger when dementia is in its final stages – older people are more at risk of dehydration because age brings with it a decreased ability to respond to external temperature changes and a decreased thirst mechanism (ability to feel thirsty).
- Ensuring that a person with dementia is sufficiently hydrated is very difficult – For many older people with dementia, lack of recognition of the vessel being used to administer water can be a problem. If the vessel is unfamiliar, for example a specialised feeding cup, or a non-spill cup, it is probable that the person with dementia will not associate the shape with water, and not use the vessel even when thirsty. It is therefore important in the area of hydration, as with dementia care in general, to stick to routines and familiar objects and surroundings. A non-spill cup may sound a good idea to a carer, but may well aggravate the problem.
To avoid dehydration, obviously intake of water is critical. An older person is usually said to need about 2 to 3 pints of water a day, or 6 tea cups. Incorporating ice chips, iced lollies, juice bars, ice cream, soup, broth, fruit and vegetable juices, lemonade and flavoured water to incorporate liquids into the diet will also help water intake for those older people who have problems in taking water in directly.
Alcoholic and caffeine bearing drinks have a diuretic effect i.e. they can aggravate or initiate dehydration, and should be avoided. In a care setting, alcohol is likely to be controlled and not an issue, but serious consideration must be given to using only caffeine free tea and coffee as these are often seen as the most popular ways of offering water, especially by untrained and unaware carers.
Once you get on top of your hydration information, you will find yourself getting into a routine whether you are looking out for yourself, your friends/family or if you are a carer, your residents. The best way to enjoy summer fully is to feel happy and healthy!
This week is Oxfam Water Week, which provides opportunities for young people to learn and think critically about water issues, before taking informed and meaningful action. Any funds which are raised during Water Week go towards Oxfam’s water, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH) projects.