Preventing malnutrition in later life

Going on holiday or staying at home? Why it’s always important to keep hydrated

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This blog post is from Rick Wilson, Director of Nutrition at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Rick shares with us the importance of keeping well hydrated in both normal and warm weather.

With temperatures plunging across the UK, many will be heading off to hotter climes to escape the brisk weather.

But whether you’re staying at home or jetting off this winter, it is important to drink plenty of water wherever you are.

The human body is 60 to 70% water and human beings wilt in much the same way as plants if the level of hydration is not maintained. Daily requirements for water are much the same for adults of any age but a lot of research shows that older people do not drink enough water. The consequences of this can be profound with a much increased risk of:

  • Pressure ulcers
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Urinary infections
  • Kidney and gallstones
  • Heart disease
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Confusion
  • Falls
  • Hospitalisation
  • Skin damage

On a normal (not hot) day everyone should drink around two litres of water per day. Cold fresh tap water is best and around 8 decent sized glasses per day should add up to around two litres. Other hot and cold drinks may also be helpful but alcoholic drinks will lead to dehydration and sugary drinks add to the daily calorie intake. Did you know one teaspoon of sugar contains 20 calories?

As a rule of thumb, urine that is plentiful, odourless and pale in colour generally indicates that a person is well hydrated. Dark, strong-smelling urine could be a sign of too little water.

In hot weather or when exercising it is important to drink more – always respond to feelings of thirst and if you are caring for others during hot weather then encourage them to drink more. Finally, it is important to drink more if you have excessive losses of water – for instance if you have a temperature, diarrhoea or vomiting.

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