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Extension Corde: Drinking water is essential for good health

Your body depends on water for survival.

Did you know that water makes up more than half of your body weight? Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function correctly. For example, your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints.

You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe. You lose water even faster when the weather is really hot, when you exercise, or if you have a fever. Vomiting and diarrhea can also lead to rapid fluid loss. If you don’t replace the water you lose, you can become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include:

• Darker, or little or no urine

• Dry mouth

• Sleepiness or fatigue

• Extreme thirst

• Headache

• Confusion

• Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

• No tears when crying

Don’t wait until you notice symptoms of dehydration to act. It can be hard to recognize when you’re dehydrated, especially as you age.

How much water should I drink each day? Most people have been told they should be drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, which is a reasonable goal. However, different people need different amounts of water to stay hydrated.

To determine how much water you should be drinking daily, divide your weight by 2; if you weigh 200 pounds than you should be drinking 100 ounces of water on average per day. (If you want to convert the ounces into cups than you simply divide 8 (8 ounces =1 cup) by the number of ounces: divide 100 ounces by 8 =12.5 cups. The rule is the more you weigh, the more water you should be drinking.

Some people are at higher risk of dehydration, including those who get a lot of exercise, or have certain medical conditions. Older adults are also at higher risk. As you age, your brain may be unable to sense dehydration and send the signals for thirst. Water can also be found in fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, tomatoes and lettuce, and in soup broths.

What about sports drinks? For most people, water is all that is needed to maintain good hydration. However, if you are planning on exercising at a high intensity for longer than an hour, a sports drink may be helpful because it contains carbohydrates that can prevent low blood sugar.

Choose sports drinks wisely, as they are often high in calories from sugar and may contain high levels of sodium. Also check the serving size. One bottle may contain several servings. Sports drinks are not the same as energy drinks. They usually contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants (guarana or taurine) that your body doesn’t need. Many experts recommend that kids and teens should not have energy drinks.

Keep yourself hydrated by carrying a reusable water bottle and filling it from the tap. If plain water doesn’t interest you, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.

• If you’re going to be exercising, make sure you drink water before, during and after your workout.

• When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. The sensation of thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water.

• Drink on a schedule if you have trouble remembering to drink water. Drink a small glass of water each hour, or when you wake up; at meal times; and when you go to bed.

• Drink water when you go to a restaurant. Not only does it keep you hydrated, but it’s free!

Contact: Patty Ortega-Flores, Nutrition Educator, SNAP Program, Wasco County, 541-296-5494, Patty.ortega-flores@oregonstate.edu

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