Feeling thirsty? Chances are you’re already dehydrated.
In general, it is recommended that women get at least 11.5 cups of fluid a day and men get 15.5 cups. However, this doesn’t mean you need to start carrying around a gallon-sized water jug.
“The recommended daily fluid intake doesn’t just refer to water,” Raymond Peters, MD, who practices at Mercy Health – Enon Primary Care, explains. “It takes into account total water intake, which includes foods and other beverages as well.”
Your body depends on hydration to continue functioning properly – from digestion to nutrient absorption, joint lubrication and even regulating our body temperature. While hydration is a year-round concern, it’s especially important during the hotter summer months or during times of heavy exercise. This is because these are times when your body loses more water than normal.
“The biggest danger of not drinking enough water is the risk of dehydration, which can lead to headaches, fatigue, dizziness or cramping,” Dr. Peters warns. “In severe cases, the symptoms can get much worse as your body struggles to perform without the fluids it needs.”
The signs and symptoms of dehydration can vary based on age. In fact, older adults are more susceptible to dehydration as thirst often declines with age. So, if you know you or a loved one will be spending extra time in the sun this summer, plan to have extra water on hand and be careful about consuming too many poolside snacks.
“Food and drinks with a high sodium and/or sugar content are known to be contributing factors to dehydration,” Dr. Peters explains. “If you think you may be dehydrated, or are on the brink of it, make sure you stay clear of fried foods and salty snacks, as well as alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks.”
Instead, focus on incorporating beverages with a high-water content into your diet, such as milks and juices. Or try adding flavors or fruits to your water to enhance the taste. You can also try switching out your chips and other salty snacks for some hydrating ones instead like watermelon, strawberries or peaches.
The important thing is to ensure you’re staying hydrated, and there’s one way to tell whether you’re getting enough fluids.
“The best way to determine if you are dehydrated is by judging the appearance of your urine,” Dr. Peters says. “Darker urine means you need more fluids, whereas urine that is light in color means you are hydrated.”
With the right tools and the proper knowledge, keeping your body hydrated can be easy.
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