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Stay Hydrated, Especially During Summer

Next to oxygen, water is the most important nutrient your body needs to function properly. Water, which makes up nearly 70 percent of the human body, plays a vital role in nearly every bodily function, including regulating temperature, carrying nutrients throughout the body, cushioning joints, strengthening muscles, providing moisture to the skin and other tissues, improving the digestive process, and eliminating waste.

Without proper fluid intake, the body becomes dehydrated. Untreated severe dehydration can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage, and even death. Seniors need to take special precautions because their thirst mechanism is not as sensitive as that of younger people.

Nutrition specialists Hebrew Rehabilitation Center recommend the following tips for getting enough fluid during the day:

  • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid throughout the day.

  • Liquids include not only water, but milk, fruit and vegetable juice, gelatin, ice cream/sherbet, and carbonated beverages.

  • Carry a water bottle with you when you leave the house, especially if you are gone for most of the day, and drink from it regularly.

  • Drink water before, during and after physical exercise to offset the fluid your body loses through perspiration. Also, during hot, humid weather, increase your fluid intake due to perspiration and evaporation losses of fluid.

Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, say the nutrition specialists at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Some signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, headache, and dark-colored urine.

In addition, Hebrew Rehabilitation Center experts say, think about the types of fluids you like to drink and have them available in the house.

Watch out for these heat-related illnesses:

Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to regulate temperatures, sometimes rising sharply to 106 or more degrees Fahrenheit. It can cause death or permanent disability if not treated immediately. Warning signs include:

  • High body temperature
  • Red, hot, dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid, throbbing pulse
  • Confusion

Heat exhaustion is a milder heat-related illness and can develop a few days after heat exposure because of unbalanced fluids. Most at risk are the elderly, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising outdoors. Symptoms include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Weakness
  • Headache, nausea or vomiting

Above content provided by Hebrew SeniorLife in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2012

Contact Information

Division of Gerontology
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building #1B (West Campus)
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215
617-632-8696

Contact Information

Hebrew Senior Life
1200 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
617-363-8000