Cooler temperatures and cloudy days can make you feel less thirsty, often resulting in lower water consumption and, in some cases, dehydration.
Whether you’re exercising, running errands, at home or at work, hydration is critical for your health, including the health of your bones. In fact, studies have confirmed that water plays a crucial role in building strong bones.
Today we’ll have a look at the importance of hydration, the effects of aging on fluid intake, and five easy ways to know if you’re drinking enough or if you’re dehydrated.
Water Is Life
Adequate water intake is essential to staying healthy. Dehydration negatively impacts the body’s thermoregulation, its capacity for physical activity, cognitive and kidney function, the digestive and cardiovascular systems, and your skin.1 It also negatively affects your bones (more on that later).
Water, composed of two hydrogen atoms attached to a single oxygen atom, is indispensable since we can only survive a few days without it.
Our diets often include sources of water that contribute to our hydration. Some foods, such as strawberries, watermelon and cabbage (to name a few), are more than 90% water. And many beverages are water-based. Naturally, the best way to stay hydrated is by drinking pure water.
Water is critical to your entire body its many systems. It is essential for survival.
The Effect Of Age On Thirst And Hydration
Hydration should be a part of your daily routine no matter your age or condition, but an active choice to hydrate is especially necessary for older adults.
Studies that have compared the relationship between thirst and fluid ingestion between younger and older people found that after water deprivation, older persons experience less thirst and drink less fluid than younger people. The result is that older people are more likely to fail to replenish their body’s supply of water, leaving them dehydrated.2
That means that you should keep sipping water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and you should know how to tell when you’re dehydrated, so that you can take immediate action. Headaches, fatigue, muscle spasms, and dark urine are known to signal dehydration, but there are five little-known signs of dehydration that we’ll share with you next.
As you age, your thirst doesn’t equate to your need for fluid, making dehydration more likely.
1. Loss Of Skin Elasticity
Grab a little bit of your skin on the back of your hand between two fingers. Now pull it up gently, then let it go. It should immediately return its former position, smooth against your hand. This test is a simple measurement of skin turgor or elasticity.
If you’re dehydrated, then when you try this the skin will remain in the pinched position, or return more slowly than usual.3
Use this simple test to tell whether you need to up your water intake.
Dehydration influences cognition. Even very mild levels of dehydration can disrupt your mood, concentration, and cognitive function. Studies have shown that dehydration impairs performance on tasks, affecting short-term memory, perceptual discrimination, arithmetic ability, visuomotor tracking, and psychomotor skills.4
If you find yourself feeling lost, confused, or short-of-attention, that could be a sign of dehydration. Slow down and drink water.
3. Bad Breath
A sudden case of bad breath, or halitosis, can indicate that you’re not getting enough water.
When you’re dehydrated, your body produces less saliva. Saliva reduces the number of bacteria in your mouth, and it is those bacteria that cause bad breath. So if you’re not getting enough water, the bacteria levels in your mouth increase, creating that noxious odor.5
Drinking more water can clear up your breath.
4. Food Cravings
In a national study examining data from nearly 10,000 participants, researchers found a direct relationship between inadequate hydration and elevated body mass index (BMI) or obesity.6
This study further confirms that dehydration causes overeating. Sometimes when our body is trying to tell us to drink water, we misinterpret the signal as hunger and get something to eat instead.
If you find yourself regularly having food cravings, it might be dehydration misleading you. Staying hydrated can clear up the cravings, both keeping your body healthy and your weight under control.
5. You Stop Sweating
Water is so essential that your body will do just about anything to preserve it when supplies are running low. One such measure is effectively turning off your sweat glands. This response indicates severe dehydration and may be a marker of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.1
If you suddenly stop sweating, seek help immediately and start hydrating as soon as possible, especially if you feel faint, confused, or unlike yourself.
Loss of skin elasticity, confusion, bad breath, food cravings, and ceasing to sweat are indicators of dehydration.
Sip Your Way To Stronger Bones
Water is one of the main components of bone, along with apatite mineral and collagen protein. Without this molecule, the mechanical properties of bone are negatively affected as well as bone quality.7
Additionally, studies have shown that dehydration causes an increase in bone damaging stress hormones such as cortisol.8 That means that not only do you need to be hydrated to build bone, but dehydration is also actively harming your bone mineral density.
Drink distilled water (as a preferred choice) or water purified by reverse osmosis with a few drops of alkalizing lemon juice throughout the day- not just when you’re thirsty. You can also add fruits, vegetables, or herbs to a pitcher of water to make a delicious cold infusion. A good starting place is to drink half of your body weight in ounces a day, but you should adjust this depending on your activity level.
So keep an eye out for dehydration!
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1 Popkin BM, D'Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. “Water, hydration, and health.” Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug;68(8):439-58. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Popkin%20BM%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=20646222
2 Phillips PA, Rolls BJ, Ledingham JG, Forsling ML, Morton JJ, Crowe MJ, Wollner L. “Reduced thirst after water deprivation in healthy elderly men.” N Engl J Med. 1984 Sep 20; 311(12):753-9. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6472364/
3 Vivanti A, Harvey K, Ash S, Battistutta D. “Clinical assessment of dehydration in older people admitted to hospital: what are the strongest indicators?” Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2008 Nov-Dec; 47(3):340-55. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17996966/
4 D'anci KE, Vibhakar A, Kanter JH, Mahoney CR, Taylor HA. “Voluntary dehydration and cognitive performance in trained college athletes.” Percept Mot Skills. 2009 Aug; 109(1):251-69.
5 Curd ML Bollen. “Halitosis: the multidisciplinary approach.” Int J Oral Sci. 2012 Jun; 4(2): 55–63. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3412664/#bib29
6 Tammy Chang, MD, MPH, MS, et al. “Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults: NHANES 2009–2012.” Ann Fam Med. 2016 Jul; 14(4): 320–324. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4940461/
7 Raghaven, Mekhala. “Investigation of Mineral and Collagen Organization in Bone Using Raman Spectroscopy.” University of Michigan. 2011. PDF. Web: https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/84443/mekhala_1.pdf
8 Judelson AD. et al. “Effect of hydration state on resistance exercise-induced endocrine markers of anabolism, catabolism, and metabolism.” Journal of Applied Physiology September 2008 vol. 105 no. 3 816-824.