Posted on May 9, 2023 by Austin Lang
Posted on May 9, 2023 by Austin Lang
Hydration is a lot more involved than just drinking more water. Yes, eight glasses of water a day is a good goal to strive for (a “glass of water” is usually defined as at least eight fluid ounces), but hydration is a lot more than what you drink; what you eat can play a huge role as well! In this edition of the Medicare Diet, we’ll cover tips on staying hydrated as a senior, and surprising health benefits you can see from quenching your thirst.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Chronic dehydration is shockingly common, affecting roughly 75 percent of American adults. Often, this is because of poor water management. Caffeine and alcohol, found in many commonly consumed beverages, is a natural diuretic, causing more frequent urination. In enough quantities, this can actually lead to a net loss in water intake. Environment and lifestyle also play a role. People living in hot or arid climates or those who engage in frequent physical activity will also lose water more quickly than normal, and certain health conditions like kidney disease can lead to symptoms of dehydration.
However, chronic dehydration can also be indicative of a chemical problem. Substances known as electrolytes (sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are examples) are used by the body to manage hydration levels. An electrolyte imbalance can lead to dehydration or even overhydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
Prolonged dehydration can lead to all sorts of health issues, like renal failure and cognitive decline, so keeping your whistle wet is essential.
The most basic way to stay hydrated is to drink more water, but as stated above that’s not always enough daily water intake in and of itself, especially for seniors with limited mobility. As such, it’s important to keep water readily available and to make the liquids you drink as effective as possible.
One easy way to maintain hydration is just by keeping water nearby. A large water bottle is a good way of doing this. You can augment this with flavoring drops, or by infusing your water with lemon or cucumber. Sports drinks are a popular go-to, but you should avoid additives with a lot of sugar in most cases.
You might also want to consider replacing a glass of water per day with an electrolyte-rich beverage. While sports drinks work, it’s usually better to seek out electrolyte solutions. These are often available in powdered form with other hydration solutions, though some might be located in the baby supply section. Sports drinks, which often contain high amounts of sugar and energy-boosting compounds, are designed for people with a heavy physical activity level but can be excessive for people just trying to stay hydrated. Electrolyte solutions are more balanced for general use, as they’re designed for people recovering from illness.
If you’re bored of regular water, here’s a recipe for a great hydration solution.
Feel free to substitute watermelon for pineapple, mango, cucumber, or other fruits and veggies that are rich in water and vitamin C. You may need to adjust the proportions of ingredients as needed.
Of course, just drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated or maintain your electrolyte level. In fact, drinking might be difficult for people with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and while water thickeners exist to make things easier, they leave a lot to be desired in terms of mouth feel. Fortunately, there are loads of foods that can help keep you hydrated, including zucchini, cantaloupe, and iceberg lettuce.
In general, fruits and vegetables with high water content (melons, oranges, peaches, and cucumbers are good examples) are a good choice for hydration. Additionally, they are also great sources of vitamin C, electrolytes, vitamin K, lycopene, and folate. Other foods with high water content — like broths, cottage cheese, and low-fat yogurt — are also good sources of fluid intake.
Of course, as with any diet, it’s best to talk with your doctor before making any major changes, especially if you have renal failure or a similar condition that could be exacerbated by dietary changes. If you’re curious about how Medicare can help you with your dietary needs, give us a call at (800) 950-0608 to talk to a licensed insurance agent, or try our free comparison tool to begin your search.
Austin is dedicated to breaking down complex topics, like Medicare, in a way that's easy to understand. He graduated with an M.A. from Florida Atlantic University in 2018.