Contributed by Carole Clausen, Personal Trainer, Fellowship Senior Living

Hydration is vital to staying healthy. Older adults may have a diminished sense of thirst or urinary incontinence or take medications that impact fluid intake or fluids stored in the body; therefore, it is important for older adults to maintain adequate fluid intake.

Proper hydration supports an intricate system of keeping the fluids and electrolytes balanced in our bodies. Water is essential for maintaining this fluid balance as it helps control body temperature; assists the body in insulating itself against cold; delivers nutrients and medications to cells and carries away waste; keeps mouth, nose, eyes and skin moist; ensures proper volume of blood; and keeps the urinary tract flushed out, thus reducing the risk of urinary tract infections.

The recommended daily fluid intake to keep your body hydrated is 48 to 64 ounces or six to eight 8-ounce glasses. This may sound like a lot, but your daily hydration requirement need not be filled entirely from the tap. Foods and beverages that contribute to your daily intake levels include milk, soup, fruit and vegetable juices, gelatin, apples, watermelon, decaffeinated soft drinks, tea and even cooked broccoli. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol do not contribute to your daily intake. They actually act as diuretics — contributing to water loss — and should be consumed in moderation.

The first sign of dehydration is usually thirst, which generally occurs when there is a 1-2% loss of body water. At a 2-5% loss, symptoms can include dry mouth, flushed skin, headache, fatigue and impaired physical performance. A 6% loss may cause increases in body temperature, heart rate and breathing. With an 8% loss, one may experience dizziness, confusion, increased weakness and labored breathing with daily activities. A loss of 10% body water may cause muscle spasms, swollen tongue and delirium. When the loss drops to 11%, symptoms include poor circulation and failing kidney function.

Don’t wait for thirst and other symptoms of dehydration to take action. Actively prevent fluid loss by starting your morning with water or juice and carrying a bottle of water wherever you go. Drink water before, during and after physical activity and take water breaks throughout the day. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.