Frequently Asked Questions

Question

Q

Do you have tips to help prevent dehydration?

Answer(s)

A

The hydration status of a person refers to body water balance. Water or fluid has many positive effects on the body, including lowering the heart rate, keeping a lower core temperature during exercise and assisting with proper mental functioning. Dehydration occurs when people don’t have enough fluid in their bodies. It can be caused by diarrhea, vomiting, overheating, diabetes, diuretic medications, high fever or excessive sweating. Though dehydration is a serious problem, it can easily be prevented by simply drinking enough water. Dehydration is ranked among the top ten reasons for Medicare hospitalizations. When adequate fluids are consumed, there is a significant reduction in confusion. The ability to feel thirst lessens with age, so seniors especially need to be aware of proper hydration. In the aging process, bodies begin losing muscle and gaining fat. Muscle holds water but fat does not, so as a person ages, body water decreases. For optimal performance, access to fluids is especially important during exercise. In one study, running speeds decreased by 6 to 7 percent when the athlete was dehydrated. Consider these tips to prevent dehydration.

Drink at least eight cups of water a day. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. By this time you are already dehydrated. Drink by schedule, not by thirst. Carry a water bottle and drink from it regularly. Keep a full water bottle in the refrigerator door and drink from it every time you open the refrigerator. Know where to find fluids when away from home.

Drink extra amounts in extreme heat to replace water lost from sweating. If you are sedentary or a moderate exerciser, water is sufficient for hydration. If you are exercising strenuously, sodium (salt) replacement is necessary. If you consume enough sodium at a meal prior to exercising, sodium rehydration beverages are generally not necessary. If you exercise daily, be sure to drink plenty with meals. Drink 16 ounces 2 hours before exercise, drink 8 to 16 ounces 15 minutes before the activity, then drink at least 4 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes during the activity. After exercise, drink 24 ounces per pound of body weight lost during the activity. Do not replace water with alcohol or caffeinated drinks. Know the symptoms of dehydration. These include thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, feeling of blacking out when sitting up or standing, confusion, muscle weakness or cramps, sunken eyes, headache and low blood pressure. If you feel any of these symptoms are becoming life threatening, go to the emergency room or contact your physician immediately.

Posted on 10 Mar 2004

Nedra Christensen
Utah State University Extension Dietician
Pauline Williams
Family & Consumer Sciences and 4-H Agent, Salt Lake County

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