Office for the Aging: Be sure to ‘wet your whistle’ before you’re thirsty

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Did you know that water makes up 60 percent of the human body?

Water is an essential nutrient that regulates and keeps our bodies functioning normally. Some things that water is important for is: helping to get rid of waste from the body through urination, sweating, and bowel movements, keeping your body temperature within normal limits, providing lubrication and cushioning for joints, protecting sensitive tissues, as well as aiding in the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.

In the midst of the summer months, it is critical that we are aware of how much water we are consuming daily and that we know the early signs and symptoms of dehydration. One of the first signs of dehydration is “feeling thirsty.”

A person who feels thirsty may already be dehydrated. Headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, dry mouth, and sleepiness are just a few other signs that you may be dehydrated. Some more serious problems include: kidney stones, blood clot complications, passing out, and lowered blood pressure.

Dehydration is very common among the elderly population. As we age, the body cannot conserve water as easily. The mechanism in the body that signals you to get thirsty also diminishes. This can cause a person to not realize that they are thirsty. Medications and medical conditions can affect a senior’s ability to retain fluid. Diuretics, antihistamines, laxatives, and other medications can cause frequent urination and if the water is not replaced can lead to dehydration.

Fluid needs are estimated at one ounce (30mL) per two pounds of body weight. For example, a 150 pound person needs 75 ounces or 2.3 quarts of fluid per day. If someone is overweight or obese, further calculations are needed to adjust their needs.

The least amount of fluid anyone should have is 1500 mL per day, unless the individual weighs less than 100 pounds. People above their ideal body weight, those living in a high temperature climate, people that have certain illnesses, and individuals that participate in vigorous exercise, require increased fluid amounts. Consuming beverages with alcohol or caffeine also increase your fluid needs.

Some tips to increase your fluid consumption are to make sure you drink water with each meal and between each meal. If you are exercising, drink enough fluid before, during, and after your workout. Also, always make sure that you have easy access to water. Keeping a water bottle with you at all times will remind and encourage you to take sips throughout the day.

Keeping a 6-8oz cup in the bathroom will get you into the habit of drinking water every time you use the facilities. Another simple trick is to drink water if you feel hungry. Oftentimes, thirst is confused with the feeling of hunger. So, if you are feeling hungry, try drinking 6-8oz of water before eating. This is a good way to decrease your caloric intake.

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of water. Celery, zucchini, tomatoes, melons, and berries all have high water content. Popsicles, smoothies, and soups are another way to get fluid into your body.

If you are not big into drinking water, infusing fruits or mixing fruit juice into the water can add an extra flavor as well as some additional nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are great to infuse into your water.

Some favorite flavor combinations include:

Cucumber, Lemon, and Cilantro

Grape, Strawberry, and Lime

Watermelon and Strawberry

Kiwi and Orange

Lemon, Lime, and Orange

Cantaloupe and Pineapple

Cucumber and Honeydew

Lemon, pineapple and orange have the strongest flavors. Melons and fleshy fruits, for example, peaches, plums, nectarines, mangoes and pineapple, decompose quickly. When cutting up fruits, such as lemons, be sure to slice them fairly thin so more of the flavor can fuse into the water and a stronger flavor will be produced.

For melons, it is recommended that you cut them into cube size pieces. Berries and grapes should be cut or mashed slightly, to infuse better flavor. At room temperature, you should leave the fruits in the water for 1-2 hours. If water and additives are stored together in the refrigerator, or if ice is added to the container throughout the day to maintain a cold temperature, keep fruit, herbs or vegetables in for 6-8 hours.

You should remove the fruits to prevent any decomposition and can store the infused water in the refrigerator up to three days. Every time you add more water into the infused flavored water, some flavor will be lost. To help prevent this, try adding water when the container is half empty, so that the infused water can mix with the new water and will have better flavor.

Nutrition Counseling and Education is provided by Oneida County Office for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects. Anyone with questions about services and programs for older adults and caregivers, including the Senior Nutrition Program should call Oneida County for the Aging /NY Connects at 315-798-5456. You will be connected to someone who can assist you.

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