“Eight glasses of water” is one of those no-longer-true facts that’s hard to debunk. In fact, it’s a good bet that many residents of Maquoketa and elsewhere still believe it, including those receiving palliative care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice will be the first to tell you that eight glasses is a fine goal, but there are all sorts of exceptions and warnings for each person, so the actual number could be just about anything.
Beyond each person’s metabolism, weight, gender, and size, there are other factors that could cause them to need more or less fluids, such as outside temperatures and their physical activity – a hotter day going for a run or walk will likely mean a greater need for more fluid consumption than a cooler day where people take it easy inside. Medical conditions and treatments could make you want more or less.
It’s definitely a fine line: too much water can cause problems in the body, including kidney damage, as can too little water, which can lead to dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, and losses of function. The perfect balance seems to change daily, rather than a firm quota. But it is important to have plenty of water to flush toxins, cushion joints, bring nutrients to cells and help you digest.
The good news is that even though the magic number of water glasses doesn’t always have to be eight, science has declared that you don’t even have to drink only water either. The guidelines now include drinking a certain number of cups of fluid that have water in it, rather than only water.
People can get benefits from drinks like tea, coffee, or fruit juice. Even better, these drinks offer additional benefits you can’t get from your plain water, like natural sugars, caffeine, or other ingredients. You can also get additional water in a diet that’s heavy in fruits and vegetables.
Besides the environmental factors that can help determine if someone needs more or less water is age.
Seniors generally need more water for a variety of reasons, mostly due to their bodies changing. According to HealthEssentials from the Cleveland Clinic, many seniors have less water in their bodies at any time than younger people. Part of the changes that accompany aging often means they become dehydrated faster, sometimes before they realize it.
They may also mistake some of the symptoms of dehydration for other minor medical conditions and ignore them, which can make matters even worse.
So it’s important to be aware of a new sense of fatigue, dry mouth, cramps, and dizziness, and get some fluids quickly. Or if you’re around a senior feeling these things, encourage them to take a break and get something to drink.
More serious symptoms of dehydration can include confusion, increased heart rate, and problems walking.
Certain medical conditions can require more water regularly, such as heart disease. And conditions like diabetes benefit from regular fluids, although juices high in sugar could be dangerous.
Seniors should be encouraged to drink throughout the day, not just at meals. Consider carrying a water bottle around, stopping by the kitchen or bathroom regularly, or including as many water stops as bathroom breaks on road trips.
This has other benefits: it’s a challenge to drink a lot of anything, including water, so it’s easier to go for smaller amounts on many drinking opportunities.
Healthline suggests that many seniors will experience changes in temperature which could make a higher demand for fluids. A higher body temperature can increase the likelihood of heat exhaustion or related cardiac problems.
It also encourages people to avoid alcohol or carbonated beverages, since these potentially can make you feel full even if you’re not.
Essentially, one study said that many seniors are not able to know when they’re thirsty. They also prefer being in warm environments vs. cold conditions, which can further increase the possibility of dehydration or heat-related problems.
If you’re still looking for a number for a guideline or goal, WebMD suggests 13 cups for men and 9 cups a day for women. Remembering, of course, that seniors do need more water.
If you’re looking for more information about water use in general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Water Works Association have declared May 2-8 as Drinking Water Week. This occasion encourages everyone to drink more and also learn how safe the U.S. water supply is. It also salutes those whose job it is to help keep water systems safe and healthy.
At a global level, the importance of clean water is also essential for the future of our planet. This is celebrated in World Water Week, which runs Aug. 23-27. People who attend a related conference can learn about opportunities and challenges facing global water supply chains, including quality issues, clean-up projects, and more.