Drinking water helps the body perform well

Water is the medium of all the fluids in our body. It brings nutrients to the cells and removes the wastes. Our bodies can function for a while without food, but not without adequate water.

We’ve all probably heard that drinking water is important. Why? More than half of an adult body weight is water. Water is the medium of all the fluids in our body. It brings nutrients to the cells and removes the wastes. Our bodies can function for a while, at least, without food. We simply cannot function without adequate water.

Water helps to:

  • Convert food into energy
  • Regulate our body temperature
  • Protect and cushion our important organs and joints
  • Keep us regular

We get water by drinking fluids and by eating some foods, especially fruits and vegetables. We lose water in urine, sweat, and feces. Dehydration is the single most common reason for older adults to go to an emergency room. When we take in less water than we lose, we become dehydrated. This can cause difficulty swallowing, dry mouth due to low saliva production, headaches, tiredness, loss of appetite, dry eyes, muscle cramps, urinary stone disease, and sometimes even confusion.

Most seniors need to drink about six to eight cups of fluids a day. The specific amount depends upon body weight, activity level, health condition, and the environment. That might seem like a lot, but remember that total water comes from many sources such as from drinking water, other beverages, and from water in foods, especially vegetables and fruits.

Adults should drink more fluids when:

  • eating high fiber foods or taking a fiber supplement
  • taking several medications, especially diuretics for high blood pressure
  • the weather is hot
  • getting a lot of physical activity or sweating a lot
  • being ill or recovering from fever, vomiting or diarrhea

The best fluids to drink are ones that we enjoy. Limit those that are high in sugar and sodium. And drink plain or flavored water and some of the following high nutrient drinks each day: 100% fruit juices (about six fluid ounces each day is enough), vegetable juices (especially the low sodium type), low-fat or fat-free milk, and water or milk-based soups.

Some tips for drinking more water include:

  • Start each day with a cup of water. Remember, some drinking glasses are much larger than one cup or eight ounces.
  • Sip a glass of water while preparing a meal.
  • Drink a full glass of water when taking medications. This is best for most medications, but check with a pharmacist if you have questions about your prescriptions.
  • Fill a water bottle and have it nearby during the day.
  • Add a dash or lemon or lime juice, an orange slice, or a packet of non-calorie flavoring to the water.
  • Put a pitcher or jar of water, lemonade, or iced tea in your refrigerator, so it’s visible when the door is opened.

For more information on the importance of fluids or other issues of interest to older adults or those living with chronic conditions, please visit the Food & Information Center at the USDA Natural Agriculture Library.

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