Are Americans drinking enough water?

WASHINGTON — New stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show many American adults don’t drink enough water.

The figures show women are barely meeting the minimum targets for fluid intake while men are falling short. The CDC says the problem is most acute among the elderly.

The health consequences are well known to area physicians.

“Hydration really affects every element of your body,” said Dr. Todd Templeman, an emergency department physician at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

He said it is quite common for dehydrated patients to show up in the emergency room. Often the condition is related to an illness, but Templeman said, “even our patients that come in with minor injuries, we often find that they are just not getting enough hydration during the day.”

There are a myriad of reasons why we don’t drink enough water. First and foremost, for most people, it just falls by the wayside in the rush of everyday life.

For seniors, there is another complicating factor: the thirst mechanism declines with age.

“It is particularly important for our elderly patients to be reminded to take fluids because they just simply don’t have the thirst mechanism younger people do,” said Templeman.

The Institute of Medicine recommends roughly a gallon (125 ounces) of water per day for adult men and about three-quarters of a gallon (91 ounces) for women. But exercise, medical condition, air temperatures and age can all cause those numbers to rise.

Templeman said that the best indicator of sufficient fluid intake is the frequency and color of urine.

“If your urine is dark or you are going for extremely long periods of time without urinating — six to eight hours — you are probably not getting enough hydration,” he explained.

What you drink is almost as important as the amount consumed.

Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea can actually work as diuretics and are not a good way to add hydration, while sodas and juice can be full of sugar and calories.

That is why doctors are encouraging Americans to drink more water. The key is to actually use all those water bottles sitting in the kitchen, and carry them with you.

“The more readily available the water is, the more likely you are to drink it as opposed to grabbing a sugary soft drink,” said Templeman.

His little tricks to get his family to drink more water include freezing bottles so ice water is handy during the day, and making sure to put bottles in his kids’ backpacks when they head off to school so they don’t have to go in search of a water fountain.

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