Hydration is especially important for women our age. But if the thought of drinking glass after glass of water sets your teeth on edge it can be difficult to meet your daily requirement. We’re here to help. We have tasty, ingenious ways to help you get the water you need without forcing yourself to drink something you dislike. And if you like what you’re drinking, you’re bound to maintain the hydration level that’s essential for your health.
Take the quiz: are you dehydrated?
How much water do we actually need? The Mayo Clinic notes that women need about 2.7 liters of fluids (about 11.5 cups) to replace fluids lost during the course of the day. About 20% of our fluids come from food–think fruits and vegetables–the rest from drinking. So the adage to drink eight glasses of water a day is more or less true. It will vary according to your weight, amount of time you spend in the sun, intensity of physical activity, etc.
If you like water and you sip it constantly throughout the day, you are probably not dehydrated. But if you don’t like to drink water because you find it tasteless and boring, there is a good possibility that you are dehydrated and don’t know it.
Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions:
- Are you thirsty? (seems like an obvious question but if you feel thirst, you are already dehydrated)
- Do you ever suffer from leg, foot or hand cramps?
- Is your urine ever dark or very rich yellow?
- Do your eyes look sunken?
- Do you have dark circles under your eyes?
- Do you get headaches frequently, particularly in the summer?
- Are you often constipated?
- Do you ever feel your heart speed up for no reason?
- Are you prone to bladder infections?
- If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and pull it up, does it seem to take a long time to fall down again?
- Do you have a general feeling of lethargy and malaise?
- Do you feel dizzy?
It’s true that if you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, the cause could be attributable to reasons other than being dehydrated. But you can find out very quickly if dehydration is the culprit by increasing your water intake. The solution to many or all of these issues might be as simple as being more hydrated.
Adequate hydration is vital, especially for women our age
Our reflexes and our senses dull with age. Our sense of thirst is no different from any of the other senses. As we get older our brain doesn’t sense dehydration the way it did when we were younger. It doesn’t send signals for thirst, so it is possible for us to go about our day without ever sensing we are thirsty. We actually need to learn to drink even when we’re not thirsty.
Why is this a problem?
As we age, the water content of our body decreases. In other words, we are drying up. To combat this trend toward dryness, we need to be sure that we get our full water requirement every day. When we were younger, it didn’t matter so much. Our cells were more forgiving and everything worked the way it should, even if we didn’t always get enough water daily. But aging cells are a different story. They need hydration every day. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation. Inadequate hydration is one of the causes of acute kidney injury.
As we get older we have a smaller fluid reserve. We also overheat more easily, so dehydration can have more serious consequences. Dehydration is one of the ten most frequent admitting diagnoses for Medicare hospitalizations, according to the Health Care Financing Administration, and it can be life-threatening if severe enough. Mild dehydration is defined as losing 2 percent of your body weight. Severe dehydration occurs with 4 percent or greater body weight loss. Even mild dehydration can affect a person’s health.
Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. And there is a further complication that makes hydration particularly important for our age group: medication and illness.
If you have kidney disease, diabetes or a thyroid disorder, you may be at higher risk for dehydration since these conditions can cause the body to excrete more water. You may also be more prone to dehydration if you take certain medications. These include antihypertensives, such as diuretics and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and antipsychotic drugs and cholinesterase inhibitors, used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses.
The many health benefits of drinking enough water
Several studies have shown that those who drink more water have healthier minds–especially important as we get older– as cognitive abilities can often slow down as we age. Even mild dehydration can impact the brain’s ability to function to its full potential.
Water supports your body by fortifying the body’s 11 organ systems, from the cardiovascular and digestive systems to the skeletal and urinary systems. Specifically, water:
- Helps deliver oxygen throughout your body
- Keeps your temperature normal
- Lubricates and cushions your joints
- Protects your spinal cord
- Blocks the development of kidney stones
- Helps keep you regular by ushering waste through your intestines
- Can fill you up before meals and aid in weight loss
- Can blunt skin disorders and the formation of wrinkles
- Can prevent urinary tract infections
- Can prevent kidney failure
- Can speed healing from wounds, ulcers and orthopedic injuries.
Now that you’re convinced you need more water, it still doesn’t change the fact that you dislike regular old water. What are some of the ways to get more hydration without downing the dreaded two to three liters of tap or bottled water a day?
Tasty ways to get your water
Try sparkling: invest in a carbonation machine
If you like sparkling water, those counter-top carbonation machines might be the answer. They do not need electricity or batteries (they are powered by CO2 canisters). A few presses of a lever sends millions of tiny bubbles coursing through your water. After the initial investment—around $100—they are extremely cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Perhaps the best known of these machines is the SodaStream. In my view, there is something so much more refreshing and thirst-quenching about sparkling water than flat water. Maybe it’s the way it tickles the back of your throat or the way it seems so much colder on a hot day or the way it is complemented by the flavor of lemons and limes. I have probably increased my water intake by about 50% since purchasing my SodaStream. Prices for SodaStream starter kits range from $79.99 to $199.00
Infuse your water with fruits and veggies
You have probably noticed how many upscale hotels and spas feature those big transparent beverage dispensers with fruits and vegetables floating in cold water. Many of them have ice cylinders below the beverage chamber to keep the liquid cool. Lemons, limes, grapefruits and watermelon are ideal for infused water as are cucumbers and mint, basil and rosemary leaves.
To get started, there are plenty of recipes for creating delicious infused waters with fruits and vegetables. Check out The Food Network’s How to Make Water the Most Delicious Thing Ever.
Or have a look at the book Cool Waters: 50 Refreshing, Healthy, Homemade Thirst Quenchers by Brian Preston-Campbell. Just looking at the cover will make you thirsty!
Ever inventive in the culinary department, the French are the masters of unusual infused water concoctions. In her book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mareille Guiliano offers unique recipes that French women follow to infuse their water. One uses 1 liter of water with a few drops of honey, the juice of a lemon and a pinch of salt. Another refreshing drink consists of infusing a cup of verveine (lemon verbena) with 1 tsp. ground cardamom and the zest of ½ lemon in 2 liters of room-temperature water for two hours.
Keep one of these urns containing water infused with your favorite fruits, vegetables or herbs, on your kitchen counter and drink from it throughout the day. This Style Setter beverage dispenser is made for infusing liquids with fruit essence. Find it on Amazon.
Keep ready-to-go infused water on hand
If you are not in the mood to infuse your own water, keep a supply of bottled, ready-to-go infused water in your refrigerator. There are so many possibilities to choose from. My all-time favorite is an infused water called Hint. They have a wide range of flavors but my favorite is their blackberry. You’ll be able to drink the entire bottle without even thinking about it. It has the slightly sweet taste of blackberry without any calories or sugar. And at 16 ounces a bottle, you will already have had 1/8 of your daily requirement. You can even get Hint to ship on a recurring basis so you always have a supply of infused water in your refrigerator.
Make some decaffeinated iced tea
A tall, cold glass of iced tea is a welcome sight in summer. Decaffeinated tea will keep you hydrated without making you jumpy. Add a squeeze of lemon and stay away from sweeteners for the best thirst-quenching effect. (If you need sweet tea try using stevia instead of sugar or honey.) Cold brew iced tea is less astringent than traditional hot brewed, so if you have time try this method from Bon Appetit. While using loose leaf tea will produce the best result, a good brand of teabags, like Typhoo or Yorkshire, will deliver excellent results.
Get hydrated with food
Your body is made up of 70 percent water, which may sound like a lot until you consider that many vegetables are more than 90 percent water each.
Drinking is not the only way to get hydrated if you consume at least five helpings of one or more of fruits and veggies a day. Watermelon, cucumbers, lettuce, celery, and strawberries are excellent sources of liquids for your body. Soups and stews also contribute to your daily fluid intake.
In an emergency, take electrolyte tablets
If you have ever felt light-headed or nauseous after exertion or when you’ve been in the sun or in intense heat, your water need has likely gone beyond simply needing plain water. To alleviate these symptoms, you may need an electrolyte replacement. Electrolytes are essentially salts that your body needs to survive. These salts include calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Once in our bodies, these salts dissolve into positive and negative charges. These charges have two main functions: they regulate the flow of water in and out of cells and they spark nerve impulses.
One of the best methods for quickly getting electrolytes is the convenience of dissolvable tabs. You simply drop one of the tabs into a bottle of cold water and wait a few seconds for it to effervesce and dissolve. Dissolvable electrolyte tabs typically come in a small, handy container that is easily kept in your bag or glove compartment. On two particularly hot days, I lost track of my water consumption and felt light-headed and nauseous. These tabs—which I always carry with me—cleared up my symptoms within an hour.
There are ready-made electrolyte drinks but they are not as convenient as the tabs and, unlike the tabs, they tend to be full of sugar. The Nuun brand is one of my favorite electrolyte tabs (the lemon-lime flavor is particularly good).
If you are properly hydrated, you don’t really need added electrolytes. They are typically used after strenuous workouts and extreme sweating. However, if you are craving fizz and flavor and boring, still water is your only choice, dropping one of these tabs will give you some taste and the added electrolytes will give you some oomph. Even if you are just feeling lethargic on a hot day, there is absolutely no down side to giving yourself a tasty, electrolyte boost.
With flavored waters, infusions, and lots of watery fruits and vegetables, there is simply no reason to drink eight glasses of flat water a day!
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