Hydration is especially important to middle aged and older athletes how often have a blunted perception of thirst. Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles.

The benefits of exercise extend beyond physical attributes to include brain health. But these cognitive benefits can be suppressed by dehydration, according to research presented at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting in San Diego, California.

 To test the cognitive impact of dehydration, researched determined the hydration status of 55 year old recreational cyclists before and after a riding event in 78 to 86 degree heat. 

Subjects who were adequately hydrated completed in a timed thinking skills test much faster after completing the race. The dehydrated subjects didn’t show much improvement at all. 

To ward off dehydration, Dr. Seifter says that healthy people should get 30 to 50 ounces of water per day (about 1 to 1.5 liters), but not all at once. “The kidneys lose some ability to eliminate water as we age. It’s important to stay hydrated gradually, throughout the day,” he says. He recommends drinking water or juices and eating water-rich foods such as salads, fruit, and applesauce. 

“An easy way to stay hydrated gradually is by getting fluids at meals, with medicine, and socially,” says Dr. Seifter. It’s possible to take in too much water if you have certain health conditions, such as thyroid disease or kidney, liver, or heart problems, or if you’re taking medications that make you retain water, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opiate pain medications, and some antidepressants. Dr. Seifter says for that reason, you should check with your doctor to be sure you’re getting the right amount.

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