Woman over 50 drinking large bottle of water
You may have heard that water is life-giving, but can it add years to your life?
We know it can help your quality of life and performance while you're on earth. Science has shown that staying hydrated has many benefits, including boosting mood, improved cognitive performance and headache prevention.
Why? The U.S. Soccer Men's National Team and Los Angeles Galaxy's team physician says the answer is pretty simple. "Water molecules are essential to every living cell in our body," says Dr. Michael Gerhardt, MD, who is also a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute. "Therefore, adequate hydration plays a vital part in cellular metabolism, which then gives a physiological boost to every organ system in our entire body."
A registered dietitian agrees. "Our bodies are made up of almost 60% water," says Michelle Rauch, MSc RDN, a registered dietitian/nutritionist for the Actors Fund. "In addition to regulating body temperature, water assists in digestion and absorption of nutrients from food, aids in the elimination of waste products from the body, acts as a lubricant for joints and helps maintain moisture and elasticity of the skin."
But can reaching your hydration goals help you reach triple digits in age, and how much do you need? Experts discuss.
How Much Water To Drink if You Want To Live to 100
Sorry, but there's no miracle number of ounces you should consume daily if you want to live to be 100. Your optimal number of ounces depends on various factors. Ditto for your lifespan. However, experts could offer some generalizations. For instance, Rauch recommends that female adults drink about 11.5 cups (or 92 ounces) and males drink 15.5 cups (124 ounces) of water daily to maintain bodily functions and stay hydrated. These numbers are similar to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies guidelines released in 2004.
That may sound like a lot, especially if you're not drinking any water daily. You don't have to go from 0 to more than 100 ounces of H2O per day.
"A good rule of thumb for optimal water intake is to drink about half of your weight in pounds in ounces," says Courtney Kassis, MS, RDN, LDN. "For example, a woman who weighs 150 pounds should aim for 75 ounces (around 9 cups) of water daily."
Why It's Hard To Give Blanket Advice About Water
The CDC doesn't have a daily water recommendation, despite having advice for the amount of vegetables and salt to consume daily. So, why is it so challenging to do the same for water? There are just too many considerations at play.
"Factors that affect water needs include physical activity, weight, age, gender and even the weather," says Kassis.
Also, it's a myth that hydration only comes from drinking water. "[Your ounces are] offset by other foods and beverages you may be consuming that day," Rauch explains.
For instance, while the CDC may not have a magic number of ounces of water to consume, it does have a list of hydration sources which include plain coffee, sparkling water and energy drinks.
How to Figure Out Your Magic Number of Ounces
To prevent becoming dehydrated in the first place, Dr. Gerhardt recommends being aware of specific factors that might make you more vulnerable to it and sipping water accordingly.
"These factors include high altitude, high UV index sun exposure, certain medications, alcohol consumption, exercise and stress," he says. "These factors will need to be recognized and it is recommended you increase your daily requirement for water intake."
Understanding the signs of dehydration can help you take steps to protect your health and longevity by upping your water intake.
"Early signs of dehydration can be more subtle such as a decreased volume of urine or less frequent urination, dry mouth, swollen tongue and fatigue," says Dr. Gerhardt. "Immediate consumption of fluids can quickly counteract the early effects of dehydration. More serious signs of dehydration include things like confusion, dizziness, heart palpitations, confusion and fainting."
If you notice these more severe signs, Dr. Gerhardt suggests going to the emergency room—and then drinking more water once you're on the mend.
How To Drink More Water
1. Use your phone
Constant pings from social media can be a nuisance, but that fifth limb of a smartphone has its benefits. You can use it to set reminders to drink water.
"When we are busy, we may not think to drink until we are feeling super thirsty," Rauch says. "Almost everyone carries a smartphone these days. Use the timer or alarm features on your phone to set a reminder to drink some water every hour or two. This will keep you on track and help you make it a habit."
2. Add some flavoring to your water
Plain water can be boring, but there are creative solutions to that problem. "Anything from fresh fruit to a variety of flavored electrolyte powders can make your hydration a little more exciting," Dr. Gerhardt says. "Just make sure that the powder is not excessively high in sugar or calories."
Rauch loves adding lemon, lime, orange and cucumber slices.
3. Carry a water bottle
Keep water in reach by carrying a bottle with you at all times. "My favorite right now is my Stanley—it’s a constant reminder to drink your water," Kassis says.
Of course, you don't need a brand-name water bottle to reap the benefits of H2O. Any will do, as long as you remember it—but perhaps that's another use for your phone's reminder app.
Different Amounts of Water Supplementation Improved Cognitive Performance and Mood among Young Adults after 12 h Water Restriction in Baoding, China: A Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Effects of drinking supplementary water at school on cognitive performance in children. Appetite.
Public knowledge of dehydration and fluid intake practices: variation by participants’ characteristics. BMC Public Health.
Dr. Michael Gerhardt, MD, who is also a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute
Michelle Rauch, MSc RDN, a registered dietitian/nutritionist for the Actors Fund
Report Sets Dietary Intake Levels for Water, Salt, and Potassium To Maintain Health and Reduce Chronic Disease Risk. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Courtney Kassis MS, RDN, LDN
Water and Healthier Drinks. CDC.