With the summer months coming to a close and the cooler temperatures arriving, it’s easy to forget that staying hydrated is just as important now as it ever has been. Dehydration can be a catalyst for several life-threatening health issues, and the senior population is among the highest at risk. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health showed there were significant deficiencies in hydration health literacy among the elderly. With conflicting information surrounding how much water a person should drink, it’s no wonder confusion sets in.

So how much water should you drink each day? It’s a simple question with no easy answer. Your individual water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are, and where you live. No single formula fits everyone, but knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.

Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine, and bowel movements. This water must be replenished to keep your body functioning properly. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that the daily fluid need for a healthy adult living in a temperate climate is about 15.5 cups for men and about 11.5 cups for women. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks (Mayo Clinic).

Living in Florida’s tropical climate, the need for water increases due to high temperatures that cause the body to sweat more and breathe heavier. Additional factors to take into consideration include exercise and overall health. It’s important to drink water before, during, and after a workout. If exercise is intense and lasts more than an hour, a sports drink can replace minerals in your blood (electrolytes) lost through sweat. Your body loses fluids when you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, bladder infections, and urinary tract stones. The Plymouth Harbor Wellness Center offers residents free, reusable water bottles – come get yours!

The National Institutes of Health found that the aging process alters important physiological control systems associated with thirst and satiety, making it less-likely that someone over the age of 65 will feel the strong urge of being thirsty. When you don’t have enough fluid in your body, your mouth is one of the first places symptoms start to show up. A dry, sticky mouth is a tell-tale sign of dehydration. Another easy place to look – the toilet! The darker a person’s urine, the more highly concentrated the waste is, and that’s a sign that there isn’t enough water in the body. A severe, throbbing headache is often another sign of dehydration. Headaches caused by a lack of fluid can happen throughout the brain – the front, the top, the back – and are often aggravated by bending over, standing up or exerting yourself (Bethesda Health).

If you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow, your fluid intake is probably adequate. If not, start now! Drinking a refreshing glass of water after reading this article is a great way to begin. Cheers!