We all know that drinking water is good for us. It helps keep your skin radiant, gets you energized, and aids in digestion. And because it does so many good things to your body, it also helps with overall healthy aging. Niti Patel, RD, MS, a dietitian based in New York City, explains that drinking water and aging are linked.
“If you maintain an active lifestyle, you’re eating a variety of foods and taking in a lot of water, you’re going to have optimal health,” she says. Water is in all of our cells, she says, and those cells need water to work efficiently. From lubricating your joints to pumping blood to your muscles, you need water to perform nearly every bodily function.
Recent data from the CDC shows that between 2015 and 2018, the amount of water Americans consumed decreased with age. Water contributed to 57 percent of total daily beverage consumption for adults aged 20-39, 50 percent among adults aged 40-59, and 47 percent among older adults aged 60 and over. Depending on your activity level and any chronic conditions, your water intake needs may decrease as you age. But also, as you age, you lose your ability to experience thirst.
“[The elderly] are losing that ability to be like, ‘Oh wow, I should really have a sip of water, or I should eat something that has a lot of fluid in it,'” she says. “I was a caregiver for an elderly family member and I always had to be very forceful, be like, ‘Okay, let’s have a glass of water now. Okay, let’s drink some water.’ That’s something that you have to do as you get older.”
Additionally, dehydration is a common but often overlooked issue for seniors. Naturally, their body holds onto less water than young people’s bodies. And the symptoms of dehydration—dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps—can often be attributed to other issues or medication side effects, explains the Cleveland Clinic.
To try to get around this inevitable part of aging, you can establish good water habits when you’re young. Though you won’t feel thirst in the same way, if you’re used to regularly drinking water and eating water-rich foods, it might not be so hard to keep it up as you age.
Patel says one thing to do is to begin drinking warm lemon water right when you wake up.
“Warm water with a pinch of lemon or lime, even just warm water in general, you’ll feel it because, throughout the night, you’re dehydrating, you’re not drinking anything,” she says. “Now you’re drinking this warm glass of water and you can feel it like nourishing your body. Like a wilted flower, you can feel yourself rising up again.”
Also, she says to get in the habit of always keeping water nearby.
“Don’t wait until you’re thirsty [to drink water,]” she says. “It’s always good to have a practice of sipping or drinking water or some beverage that’s good for you throughout the day. Try to add liquids throughout your day. And liquids could be munching on like cucumbers and hummus because cucumbers are a great source of water.”