Elizabeth S. Reames | 4/19/2005 10:28:36 PM
Drinking enough fluids is important during our hot summer weather – especially for senior citizens, according to LSU Agricultural Center nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
Several deaths of senior citizens related to excessive heat have occurred in recent years during hot summer months. And Reames says hot weather can lead to body water loss, dehydration and heat stroke.
"Even small losses of body water can impair activity and judgment," Reames says, explaining that mild dehydration may be seen with a loss of 1 percent to 2 percent of body weight or a loss of 1 1/2 - 2 pounds for a person weighing 150 pounds.
"Studies show senior citizens may not drink sufficient fluids," the Ag Center nutritionist says, adding, "They also may be taking medications, such as diuretics for high blood pressure, which cause fluid loss."
One study of healthy retirees found 8 percent with moderate dehydration and about 33 percent likely to have chronic mild dehydration, Reames says.
To be well-hydrated, the Food and Nutrition Board recently set general fluid recommendations. The recommendations are based on thirst, which is the body’s alert that we are getting dehydrated and want to consume more fluids. According to the report, thirst, together with typical fluid and food consumption behavior, is an effective mechanism to prevent dehydration. The report also stated that it is extremely unusual for healthy individuals with ready access to food and fluids to become chronically dehydrated.
Reames notes that although most people can meet fluid needs by drinking when thirsty and regularly consuming beverages at meals, prolonged physical activity and heat exposure will increase water losses and therefore may raise daily fluid needs. In very hot weather, very active individuals often have daily total water needs of six liters or more, according to several studies.
In addition to physical activity and environmental conditions, diet composition, disease and health conditions and use of diuretics and other medications can affect water needs. It’s also important to remember that water needs vary from day to day.
According to national survey data, women consume an average of 2.7 liters (91 ounces) and men approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water – from all beverages and foods – each day.
Both food and drink supply water. About 80 percent of people's total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages – including caffeinated beverages – and the other 20 percent is derived from food. Solid foods may contribute about 4-5 cups of water each day. Many fruits and vegetables are 90 percent fluid.
According to the survey, drinking caffeinated beverages doesn’t lead to total body water deficits. These beverages can be consumed to help meet hydration needs, along with other beverages and food.
"It’s important to drink enough fluids, especially during hot weather," the nutritionist stresses, offering additional tips:
• Water is a great fluid replacer. Drink cool water because it’s absorbed faster and you’ll usually drink more of it because it tastes better.
• Water can come from all kinds of beverages and food, including juice, milk, soup, tea, coffee and soft drinks. Plain water is great, too. Remember that juice, milk and soup offer other nutrients as well.
• Fruit juice diluted with plain water or sparkling water offers a refreshing lift.
• Some beverages, especially those containing alcohol, may lead to loss of body water.
For information on related family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Extension/Departments/fcs/ For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.