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How Much Water Should You Drink to Stay Hydrated?

So, exactly how much water should you drink to stay hydrated? We’ve all heard the magic number of “eight cups a day,” but it turns out the answer from our health experts is a little more complicated than that.

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Exactly how much water should you drink, anyway?

Compared to younger people, seniors must take extra care to get enough fluids. With age, thirst-the body’s built-in dehydration alarm system-becomes less noticeable and reliable. Older people also tend to have modest appetites, which means they receive less fluid from food. Meanwhile, due to declining kidney function, their bodies often aren’t as good at conserving the water they do get.

The amount of fluid we need to feel our best varies according to factors such as physical activity levels, physiology and climate. As a rough guideline, the Dieticians of Canada suggest 2.2 litres (nine cups) per day for women and three litres (12 cups) for men. These totals include food moisture, which accounts for about one-fifth of the average person’s liquid intake-and more for people who eat a lot of fruit and veggies. Keep in mind that you’ll need extra fluids if you’re exercising, if the weather is hot or if you’re somewhere with indoor heating, which can drain moisture from your skin.

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Woman drinking cup of teaPhoto: ShutterStock

Drink more than just water to stay hydrated

If you don’t like to consume a lot at once, try increasing the frequency of your drinks. Vary your sources of fluid if that makes it easier to stay hydrated-besides water, consider beverages such as juice, milk and soup. Even coffee and tea can work, despite the caffeine’s mild diuretic effect-they provide more water than they drain.

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Woman on toiletPhoto: ShutterStock

Recognize the signs of dehydration

If your urine is dark or has a particularly strong smell, you may not be getting enough fluids to stay hydrated; other signs of early-stage dehydration include a dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and irritability. Left unaddressed, the problem can cause a racing heart, delirium or a loss of consciousness, and sufferers may require intravenous hydration from medical professionals.

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Are you chronically dehydrated?Photo: ShutterStock

Beware of chronic dehydration

In everyday life, milder bouts of dehydration are commonplace. But take note: “When mild dehydration is chronic,” says Ron Maughan, chair of the European Hydration Institute’s Science Advisory Board, “it can have adverse effects, especially renal [kidney] stones.” If you suspect poor hydration might be dragging you down, the remedy is simple: drink up.

Related features:
5 Signs You’re Probably Dehydrated
Bottled Water Vs. Tap Water: Rethink What You Drink
5 Safe and Healthy Alternatives to Energy Drinks

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada