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By LifeBridge Health

Proper hydration is good for your health in several ways.

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It helps us regulate our body temperature, it is essential for circulation, and it’s good for muscle function and skin health.

Dehydration—very common during the summer months because of increased perspiration (sweat) from the heat—can cause problems like heat exhaustion (body overheating), constipation, mood changes, muddled thinking and kidney damage (in more severe cases of dehydration). That is why it’s more important than usual when it’s hot to stay well hydrated.

“Elderly people tend to be at higher risk of dehydration. As we get older, we tend to not drink as much and our muscles don’t hold on to water as well,” says Margaret Ifarraguerri, a clinical dietitian at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, a LifeBridge Health center.

You’re probably familiar with the usual ways to avoid dehydration in the summertime: stay in the shade (or air conditioning) and drink plenty of water.

How much water should you drink? Well, plain water consumption varies by person according to age, gender and other social factors. The longstanding general recommendation calls for eight 8-ounce glasses of water (about 2 liters) daily. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends 3.7 liters of daily fluids for men and 2.7 liters of fluids a day for women. Some think four to six cups of water is enough for generally healthy people. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help you determine the intake volume that’s best for your specific needs.

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Some medical conditions, Ifarraguerri says, can cause fluid retention, which occurs when excess fluids build up inside your body. “If you are worried about retaining too much fluid, I would recommend speaking with your doctor about how much fluid you should be having,” Ifarraguerri says.

It’s a good idea to carry a water bottle when you go out on errands or if you’re going to be in hot weather for a prolonged period. Signs that you may need water right away include:

  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • headache
  • dark yellow urine

Plain water isn’t your only source of fluid. Fruits and veggies also contain water. Those with high water content include watermelon, berries, oranges, cucumbers and celery. “I know sometimes plain water can be kind of boring, so I like to recommend adding fruit to your water to make it more flavorful,” says Ifarraguerri.

The fluids you need for daily hydration can come from a variety of foods and beverages. If not plain water, choose healthier beverages (those with nutrients and little or no calories) over sugary, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. “I usually recommend caution with caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as these can cause our bodies to lose water,” Ifarraguerri says. “If you are drinking these types of beverages, I recommend making sure you are compensating by drinking plenty of water afterwards.”

And try to cut down on high-sodium foods—like chips, cured meats and soy sauce—as much as possible. “Excess amounts of these foods can also cause our bodies to lose water,” Ifarraguerri says.

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