We often hear that we should listen to our bodies when it comes to how much and when to drink. However, this has recently been rebuffed by researchers and health experts, who have suggested the idea of thirst being an indicator of when you should drink may not actually be true – with older people being most at risk.
As we grow older, we lose our appetite for food and drink. This makes it easy to see how dehydration becomes an issue as we grow old – if it doesn’t manifest itself in the form of thirst, it becomes difficult to quench.
UCL healthy drinking study
Lead author of the UCL study Dr Cini Bhanu says “Keeping well hydrated is key to good health among older people, reducing the risk of hospital admissions and other poor health outcomes. However, many do not link hydration to good health and are unsure of how much to drink.”
This revelation raises the issue of better educating the public, particularly the older generation, about the importance of hydration and how it affects their day-to-day and wider health. According to the study, advice on this subject from GPs was rare but listened to when given. With this in mind, perhaps GPs need to take a more proactive approach with this issue. A second myth emerging from the study was that tea, coffee and juice don’t count as hydration. If this is the case, the answer may be to focus hydration in elderly people around drinking something they enjoy, to minimise the association with it being a chore to drink, even when not necessarily thirsty.
How does dehydration affect our wider health?
Dehydration is believed to affect between a third and half of weaker, older people and can lead to stroke and increase the chances of having a fall. It’s also known that people admitted to hospital after a stroke are 50% more likely to suffer serious impairment if they are dehydrated when admitted.
How much water should we be drinking?
The health guidelines for daily water consumption stand at 2 litres per day, equating to 8×8 ounce glasses, yet 89% of the UK population are said to be drinking less than this.
If you find it hard to drink enough water, why not try carrying a 2-litre water bottle for the day? This way, you know how much you’ve had to drink and there’s no need to play a guessing game when it comes to filling up a glass.
Need some motivation to drink more water? Click here.