Health Essentials: How We Hydrate All Year Round

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Many of us know the importance of staying hydrated on hot summer days, but it’s also essential to drink plenty of fluids during the cooler months. When the temperature drops, we tend to spend more time inside, where building heat systems dry out the air, making us more prone to becoming dehydrated.

Why Drink Water

Our bodies depend on water for many basic functions. Water helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, flush out waste products, and protect our organs and tissues. A person may survive without food for multiple weeks but, if denied water, will face grave danger within days.

Over time, the amount of water present in our bodies decreases, and our kidney function may begin to decline. These natural effects of aging are apt to trigger fluid imbalances and cause seniors to dehydrate more rapidly than when they were younger. Additionally, certain medications (such as diuretics) and chronic health conditions (e.g., diabetes) affect fluid retention and thereby increase the risk of dehydration.

Although the recommended daily fluid intake varies according to several factors (age, gender, activity level, climate), there’s no denying that it is essential. Consult your health care provider to determine how much water you should be drinking each day.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when a person doesn’t consume enough water. Common signs of dehydration include headache, confusion, fatigue, dizziness, generalized weakness, and low blood pressure with a rapid pulse. These warning signs are especially important for older adults to heed. Because we lose bone density as we age, a slip or fall that might have left us bruised at age 25 could result in serious injury later in life.  

Other indicators to watch for include dry mouth and/or cough, loss of appetite with possible sugar cravings, flushed skin, and swollen feet. Severe dehydration frequently necessitates medical attention or hospitalization. 

Easy Tips for Staying Hydrated

We all know that the best way to stay hydrated is to drink plenty of water—and we also know how easy that is to forget. One simple fix is to carry a modest-sized water bottle when out and about, but this solution won’t always be convenient or even possible for some. 

At New Horizons at Marlborough, opportunities to hydrate are ubiquitous. Residents benefit from having summertime “Hydration Stations” strategically located across the campus along walking routes, in popular gaming areas, and at outdoor activity venues. These stations are equipped with large dispensers full of ice water, often flavored with fruit and/or vegetable slices (think lemons, limes, cucumbers, and fresh berries) to give the water just a hint of refreshing natural flavor.

New Horizons also maintains a centrally located, complimentary “Enhanced Water” dispenser year-round. With various fruit flavors, such as blueberry/raspberry, kiwi/strawberry, and tropical mango, this machine offers a tasty zero-calorie alternative to soda or juice. Residents frequently stop by for a quick refresher or to fill a pitcher for home.

Eat These Foods to Boost Hydration

Drinking ample fluids is important, as is eating water-rich foods. Much of the water our bodies need comes from the foods we eat throughout the day. Raw fruits and vegetables typically provide the highest water content. Cucumbers, for example, are 95 percent water. Other water-packed choices include lettuce, zucchini, summer squash, cabbage, and tomatoes.

At New Horizons, the resident Green Thumbs gardening club grows these items on campus in a farm-to-table initiative that supplies our kitchens with fresh produce all season long. As a result, residents benefit from both the increased daily water intake and added vitamins, minerals, and fiber that come from eating a produce-heavy diet.

Hand fruits, such as apples, oranges, pears, plums, and clementines also pack a hydrating punch, with peaches topping the list at 88 percent water. And honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, and watermelon (92 percent water!) are a fluid-rich alternative to straight water. These melons and assorted hand fruits are readily available at New Horizons as an alternative for dessert, breakfast, or even an appetizer.

Broth-based soups with a low sodium content are another lesser-known source of extra fluids. Soup broth is generally made from bones boiled in water. Broth-based vegetable soups, for example, offer the combined hydrating effects of their vegetable and broth components. Low-salt gazpacho, made from tomatoes and watermelon, and soups made from potatoes (80 percent water), are great hydrators.

The professional chefs at New Horizons regularly introduce new menu items designed to support whole-body wellness and a delightful dining experience. Residents rave about potato-based French Vichyssoise and Mediterranean Specials, such as the yogurt, berry, and grain bowl. (At 88 percent water, plain yogurt is a protein-packed source of fluids.)

Because dehydration can be dangerous at any age, it is important to be alert to its tell-tale signs and endeavor to stay hydrated in every season.

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