Water, An Essential Nutrient

By Marilyn Baker-Venturini, Director Meals on Wheels

Water is essential to the human body and is one of the most important nutrients in your diet. The human body is about 60% water. Water controls body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, removes wastes, and protects organs and tissues. Most people need 8-12 cups daily for the body to function best.
Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water; this is a symptom of dehydration. Drink water or other fluids all day long. Water is the best fluid to drink; it has no calories, is naturally low in sodium, contains no fat or cholesterol, and no caffeine. Other sources of fluid are milk, fruit or vegetable juice, soup, or anything liquid at room temperature. Drinks with caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration.

Older adults are at greater risk of dehydration; because the body’s ability to conserve water is reduced, sense of thirst is reduced, and the body is less able to respond to changes in temperature. Signs and symptoms of dehydration in older adults include confusion and weakness, which are among the first symptoms to occur in severe dehydration. Other symptoms include dark urine, decreased elasticity, headache, dry mouth, fatigue and lethargy, a sudden change in blood pressure upon standing up, dizziness, and increased heart rate.

In summer, as temperatures soar, warm weather activities can increase the risk of dehydration. A glass of water may help cool an overheated body and help replace water lost due to exposure to indoor air conditioning. Here are some tips for adding water to your daily routine: have a glass of milk or juice with your meals; drink a glass of water at regular times during the day, such as when you take your medicine; place a glass of water beside your favorite chair for a “water break”; take a sip of water as you pass a water fountain; choose a cup of yogurt or a piece of fruit for an afternoon snack; drink water before and after being outside on a hot or cold day; and add lime or lemon to a tall glass of ice water for a flavor twist.
Dehydration is a higher risk among older adults because their body’s ability to conserve water is reduced and the body is less able to respond to changes in temperature. Drink water or other fluids all day long, but preferably drink WATER!

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