Health – Hydration and its impact on ageing
Today’s article focuses on hydration and its impact on our health and ageing.
Over the next couple of articles, I plan to go back to basics, to raise awareness and look at some simple steps that we can take in respect of our own ageing journeys.
According to Patrick Holford in his book ‘The 10 secrets of Healthy Ageing’, dehydration is one of the consistent measures of increasing age. He believes that you can predict a person’s biological age by the % of water in their bones and brain, and that keeping well hydrated is a simple and effective step in anti-ageing.
This sounds like a great reason to take a closer look!
I’ll start by looking at what is meant by hydration and how we can check our personal levels. I’ll then look at the importance of hydration and the risks of dehydration, in general, before focusing on these from an ageing perspective. Finally, I’ll look at some tips to improve our hydration levels.
What do we mean by hydration?
The dictionary definition isn’t that useful: “The process of causing something to absorb water. The human body requires adequate hydration to function properly”.
Defining proper functioning of one’s body is obviously not easy! Firstly, as the human body is highly complex and performs many functions, and secondly, as there are a number of other factors that could influence this.
How do we know if we are getting enough?
Hydration requirements differ by person. As well as having different bodily needs, our environment, levels of exercise, health, medication and clothing can also factor.
One of the easiest ways to test your hydration is through urine colour and bathroom frequency. Ideally urine should be light yellow and you should be emptying your bladder on average 5-8 times per day.
Luckily, when we are healthy our body gives us signs. Early signs of dehydration include feeling thirsty and our urine turning a darker colour. Other signs of dehydration include:
- Dizziness or light headedness
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Passing small amounts of urine infrequently (less than 3-4 times per day)
- No tears when crying
Why is it important to be hydrated?
Through the definition, we learned that our bodies need to be hydrated to function properly, but what does this really mean? There are a host of different medical websites covering this.
“Your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly e.g. your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste, and lubricate your joints. Water is needed for overall good health.”
“Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation.”
“Drinking plenty of water can help keep your body healthy and functioning at its highest capacity. Staying hydrated will help you to:
- Improve physical performance
- Help you to lose weight
- Boost your mood
- Boost your brainpower
- Prevent headaches.
- Protect against disease”
These all sound like pretty good reasons to stay hydrated to me.
Why is hydration important as we age?
Being hydrated has a few notable benefits to us as we age.
Regulates energy levels, so we can remain active for as long as possible.
Keeping your body hydrated is one simple way to increase energy levels – and it really does not need to be sports drinks or vitamin water. Drinking fresh water throughout the day will keep you active without adding any extra calories. New Health Advisor
Acts as a natural anti-depressant to improve our mood.
According to a study by Coleen Muñoz, the greater the water consumption, the better the mood. Tension, depression and confusion scores went down when water intake went up. It’s a no brainer really.
Helps to hydrate our skin and keeps us regular
Skin elasticity – Dry skin has less resilience and is more prone to wrinkling. Water is essential to maintain skin moisture and is the vehicle for delivering essential nutrients to the skin cells. Anti Ageing God’s Way
Since constipation is related to dehydration in the colon, you need to make sure you are drinking lots of water. When your body is properly hydrated, less water will be withdrawn from the colon. This will help to keep you regular.
What are the risks of dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids, mostly water, exceeds the amount that is taken in. Along with water, small amounts of salts are also lost. When we lose too much water, our bodies may become out of balance or dehydrated. Severe dehydration can lead to death.
This is the obviously the result of extreme dehydration, but there are other negative effects of dehydration, especially in older people:
- Dehydration is associated with poor health outcomes e.g. increased hospitalisation and mortality.
- Even mild dehydration adversely affects mental performance and increases feelings of tiredness. Mental functions affected include memory, attention, concentration & reaction time.
- Common complications associated with dehydration also include low blood pressure, weakness, dizziness and increased risk of falls.
- Poorly hydrated individuals are more likely to develop pressure sores and skin conditions.
- Water helps to keep the urinary tract & kidneys healthy. When fluid intake is reduced the risk of urinary tract infections increases. Inadequate hydration is one of the main causes of acute kidney injury.
- Inadequate fluid intake is also one of the most common causes of constipation. In individuals who are not adequately hydrated, drinking more fluid can increase stool frequency and enhance the beneficial effect of fibre intake.
- Many older people are reluctant to drink to avoid the need to go to the toilet, particularly at night, but restriction of overall fluid intake does not reduce urinary incontinence frequency or severity.
How can we improve our hydration levels?
- Much of this is common sense, but many of us could probably do with increasing our hydration intake a little. Here are tips to assist:
- Drink a glass of water first thing to kick start the process
- Aim for approximately 2 litres / 8 glasses of water per day
- Always take a water bottle with you
- Our bodies retain more if we drink little and often
- Take some water to bed in case you wake up thirsty
- Drink water alongside other drinks – tea, coffee, alcohol to negate their diuretic effects
- Drink water before every meal or snack to help fill you up
- Find innovative ways to increase your intake:
- Mix your own drink – water with lemon or other fruit or peppermint leaves
- Eat your water – many fruit and veg contain high levels of water
- Choose carbonated water
- Dilute juices
- Set a timer to remind you to drink at regular intervals
If you need more help in monitoring and prompting your hydration intake, there’s even an App that will help you do this, called Waterlogged!
Once you make sure you are having enough water for your health, then you should maybe look at if you are drinking the purest water. Tap water contains toxins, heavy metals, vocs and emerging contaminants such as pesticides, herbicides and prescription drugs. Bottled water is costly to our environment as also carries it’s own risk
I introduce to you the PURITII water bottle. Firstly the filter is so good, you can fill it with pond and lake water, tap water from abroad and becomes safe drinking water. Secondly it is safe, clean drinking water without jeopardizing your health or our environment.
Each filter lasts the same as 455 plastic bottles of 500ml, the filter acts like a magnet, which traps contaminates and cleans the water. To find out more, our local supplier is Leanne Brown.
So, we’ve seen how important hydration is in our ability to age healthily (and hence successfully). I drink a fair amount of water throughout the day (more with exercise) and I also get some through herbal teas and fruit and vegetables. There is definitely room for improvement though, as I look guiltily at my half-filled glass on water on my desk.
I know how I plan to enhance my hydration levels. What will you do?
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.