The key to a long life may be all around us
By Allison Ostroff, MD, Director of Healthy Aging Program, Nuvance Health
If you are like most people, you want to live a long, healthy life. Yet, making healthy choices to fuel your body and mind every day can sometimes be daunting. The good news is there is a simple way to contribute to your health and wellness throughout the years — staying hydrated.
As a doctor who specializes in healthy aging, here are tips about how staying well hydrated can help you live a healthier life.
Study shows staying hydrated may lead to living longer
According to a study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal eBioMedicine, one of the keys to longevity is staying hydrated. The study showed that without proper hydration, sodium levels increase. Increased sodium levels can increase the risk of chronic diseases and shorten your lifespan.
The study pointed out, “Adults who stay well-hydrated appear to be healthier, develop fewer chronic conditions, such as heart and lung disease, and live longer than those who may not get sufficient fluids.”
What are the health benefits of staying hydrated?
We need water to survive because our bodies are 70% water. There are many benefits to hydrating, including:
- Increases energy so you can be active, alert, and strong and reduce the risk of anxiety, depression and injuries.
- Increases blood flow, which is very important for brain health, heart health and overall wellness.
- Removes toxins from the body. We ingest various toxins through food and medicines every day. It is important to flush them out with the recommended number of fluids.
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How much water should you drink to be well hydrated?
For most people, we recommend drinking about eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. But, how much water you should drink depends on your unique circumstances. Speak with your doctor to know how much water you should drink each day.
For example, people on medications that cause dehydration may need to drink more water, and people with heart failure or certain kidney conditions may need to drink less water. How much water you should drink also depends on your activity level, environment and age. If you are very active or in hot or humid conditions, you may need to drink more water to replenish fluids.
People aged 75 or older only need to drink about six, eight-ounce glasses of water a day. It may also be harder for older people to stay hydrated. The thirst center in your brain may not trigger you to drink water because it decreases as we age. You can set reminders on your phone, leave yourself notes or ask a family member or caregiver to remind you to drink water.
How much hydration can you get from food and other beverages besides water?
You may be thinking — I can’t possibly drink that much water in a day. Fear not. Hydration comes in many forms. While drinking water is the most direct source, you can get your daily recommended fluids through foods. Here are some healthy food sources of water:
- Fruits, such as apples and pears
- Vegetables, such as tomatoes and zucchini
- Soups, low- or no-sodium broth is a great source of water
- Other low- or no-calorie liquids, such as seltzer and decaf, unsweetened iced tea
Having coffee with breakfast, soda with lunch or an alcoholic beverage with dinner may seem like you are drinking enough to stay hydrated. But some beverages can actually cause dehydration and are not great sources of hydration. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol each reduce water intake by two cups.
You can still enjoy your morning coffee. Just find your balance of hydrating beverages and foods throughout the day.
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How much is too much water?
Although it is not common, it is possible to over-hydrate, which can lead to medical issues. Too much water could lead to your sodium decreasing to dangerous levels, something called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia symptoms include a sudden lack of energy, confusion, balance issues and generally not feeling like yourself. While monitoring your hydration levels, consider that certain medicines, such as anti-depressants or diuretics can decrease your sodium levels dramatically.
What hydration is best for you and a long, healthy life?
To start, follow the recommended guidelines of eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day or six glasses if you are age 75 and older. But also speak with your doctor about what is best for you depending on your age, activity level and overall health. Remember, you may also need to drink more water if you are in a hot or humid environment.
Besides proper hydration, diet, exercise and staying connected with family, friends and community are keys to living a long, healthy life.
The bottom line: If you are wondering how to live a longer and healthier life, one of the answers is all around you — Water. Yes, Water! Staying well hydrated can reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as heart and lung diseases. Hydration can also improve your energy and blood flow and remove toxins from your body. You can stay hydrated with water, and certain foods and beverages including fruits, soups and decaf unsweetened iced tea.