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How Much Water Should You Drink a Day?

Post Date:04/30/2024

Senior-Woman-Drinking-Water-from-a-GlassHow much water should you drink a day? Most people need about four to six cups of plain water each day. However, it may be surprising to learn that water intake is an individualized number.

While the daily four-to-six-cup rule is for generally healthy people, that amount differs based on how much water they take in from other beverages and food sources. Also, certain health conditions, medications, activity level, and ambient temperature influence total daily water intake.

Unfortunately, many of us, especially older adults, aren’t getting enough to drink. Here are some tips to help you know how much water you should drink daily to stay healthy.

Benefits of drinking water

Water keeps every system in the body functioning properly and has many important jobs, such as:

  • Carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells
  • Flushing bacteria from your bladder
  • Aiding digestion
  • Preventing constipation
  • Normalizing blood pressure
  • Cushioning joints
  • Protecting organs and tissues
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Maintaining electrolyte (sodium) balance.

How much daily total water do you need?

The National Academy of Medicine suggests an adequate intake of daily fluids of about 13 cups and 9 cups for healthy men and women. That might mean you need only four to six cups of plain water, depending on other fluid sources such as coffee, tea, juice, fruits, and vegetables.

Other factors that might mean more plain water include:

Male ExerciserActivity level: If you’re losing water through sweat while exercising, you should increase your water intake. Individuals participating in long stretches of physical activity, such as marathons, often need to replace water and sodium losses.

Outside temperatures: You should adjust your water level when the temperatures soar outside. In warmer temperatures, you might feel thirstier faster.

Overall health and medications: According to Harvard Medical School, it’s possible to take in too much water if you have certain health conditions, such as thyroid disease or kidney, liver, or heart problems; or if you’re taking medications that make you retain water, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opiate pain medications, and some antidepressants.

Age: Older people don’t sense thirst as much as they did when they were younger. And that could be a problem if they’re on a medication that may cause fluid loss, such as a diuretic.

How to calculate how much water to drink a day

As there’s no one-size-fits-all answer and water intake is individualized, you should check with your doctor about the right amount for you.
You risk becoming dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water each day. Warning signs of dehydration include urine that’s dark yellow in color, weakness, low blood pressure, dizziness, or confusion.

Fluids to keep you hydrated

Water is not your only choice when it comes to hydration. All beverages containing water contribute toward your daily needs. And some people even tout the benefits of milk for hydration.

According to the Harvard Medical School, it’s a myth that caffeinated beverages or those containing alcohol are dehydrating because they make you urinate. They do, but the water from these beverages still leads to a net positive contribution to total fluid consumption over the day.

Of course, there are many reasons why water is still the better choice. Sugary drinks can lead to weight gain and inflammation, which can increase your risk of developing diseases such as diabetes. Too much caffeine can give you the jitters or keep you from sleeping. To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that alcohol intake should be limited to one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day for men.

Tips for avoiding dehydration

To ward off dehydration, drink fluids gradually throughout the day. An easy way to do this is to have a drink at each meal, as well as socially or with medicine. And know that you also get fluids from water-rich foods, such as salads, fruit, and applesauce.

SOURCE: Harvard Health Publishing


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