Right in the middle of cooking dinner, Annie lost her vision.
Annie, one of our managing editors, had no other symptoms. She just suddenly couldn't see.
Several serious events can lead to sudden vision loss. Fortunately, Annie was with a friend who recognized her problem... extreme dehydration. She'd just completed an intense cardio workout without water in an overly hot gym. With rest and lots of fluids, she recovered without permanent damage.
Although dehydration doesn't often lead to sudden loss of sight, it's still a serious problem... especially if you're over the age of 50.
That's because as we age, we begin to lose the ability to conserve water in our kidneys. That means we actually lose the ability to feel thirsty when we need water.
We need enough fluids to maintain our body temperature, regulate our blood pressure, and help get rid of waste. Symptoms might start with headaches, nausea, constipation, and fatigue. Then when dehydration worsens, it leads to muscle pain, confusion, kidney problems, infections, and even death.
As we've written before, you need to be properly hydrated before, during, and after a workout. Dehydration takes a toll on your kidneys and your muscles. Sometimes too little water can lead to rhabdomyolysis. That's when your muscles break down and leak dangerous amounts of calcium into your bloodstream.
But how much water should you drink?
The standard in the medical world is to tell people to drink up to 64 ounces of water per day. The rule of thumb is eight 8-ounce glasses per day. However, I wrote several years back about how the history of the 64-ounces-a-day recommendation stemmed from research on people lost at sea – not the reality of a normal day.
Now... a 2012 water study showed that drinking 34 ounces of water a day lowers the risk of developing high blood sugar. That's about one liter, or four to four and a half cups of water a day. The study found that people who drank 34 ounces of water per day were 21% less likely to develop high blood sugar than people who drank 16 ounces or less per day.
Researchers think dehydration causes an increase in a hormone called vasopressin. It triggers blood-sugar production in your liver, raising your blood-sugar levels.
In more recent tests though, researchers demonstrated that folks respond differently to water intake. Some hit dehydration levels sooner than others, despite similar fluid-intake levels. The range was anywhere from one liter to more than seven liters.
The bottom line is to make sure you're getting enough for you.
The important thing to remember is this: if you've over 50, make it a habit to drink plenty of fluids. Remember, too, that caffeine, certain medications (like diuretics), and chronic illnesses like diabetes require extra care for hydration.
When you're trying to stay hydrated, here are five key points to keep in mind:
1) Always drink plenty of water when you exercise. You want to pace yourself and rehydrate as you go. If it's excessively warm where you're exercising, use caution to avoid overheating.
2) If you feel hungry, it could be a trigger that you're thirsty. Sometimes dehydration causes a part of our brain – the hypothalamus – to misfire and make us feel hungry instead of thirsty. If you feel hunger pains, try drinking a full glass of water and waiting about 20 minutes. If it's from dehydration, the hunger should pass.
3) If you get headaches, try a glass or two of water. Headaches are a more recognized symptom of dehydration than thirst. In fact, dehydration is a common trigger not just for regular headaches, but for migraines, too.
4) Don't forget that fluids come from food, too. Foods with higher fluid content help you get the fluids you need. Foods that are at least 80% water include strawberries, watermelon, spinach, cabbage, carrots, oranges, and yogurt.
Keep in mind though, older folks might not finish meals or might have problems swallowing. That means if food is a bigger source of fluids, they won't meet their needed amounts.
5) Figure out bathroom plans. This is an uncomfortable subject, but sometimes older folks won't drink because it's too difficult for them to use the bathroom. Mobility issues can prevent easy access and further complications like bedpans or catheters can make it much worse.
If you or someone you know has any of these problems, be open about it. Get the proper help from caregivers or install proper safety features to aid with bathroom use.
Following these tips and making sure you're on top of your hydration will save you from pain and complications due to dehydration.
Are you living a millionaire lifestyle? Our free daily letter is your guidebook:
- Signs of dehydration in older folks.
- Something different: An incredible advancement for brain science.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
Las Vegas, Nevada
September 28, 2017