Food & Fitness After 50: Beat the heat hydration tips

This post was written by Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50, and hydration and exercise expert.

satchel-paige-angie-villegasFamed baseball player Satchel Paige’s career spanned from 1924 to 1966, incredible longevity for any athlete.  In addition to being an amazing pitcher, Satchel’s unique perspective on life produced many memorable quotes, including “Age is a question of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it don’t  matter.”  Also, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?”  Both quotes speak to the importance of maintaining an optimistic, positive attitude about aging, although our bodies naturally change as we age.  Some of those changes influence our ability to stay well hydrated, especially so during the hot summer weather.

What does staying hydrated mean?

It is important to point out that staying hydrated—drinking enough each day to prevent significant dehydration and its consequences—is usually not a problem for the vast majority of older adults.  Although it is true that our thirst mechanism becomes less sensitive as we age, that change does not typically increase the risk of dehydration.  That may sound counterintuitive but it turns out that humans of any age do not rely solely on thirst as the primary gauge for when to drink.

Drinking at meals accounts for most of our daily fluid intake, along with the spontaneous drinking that occurs throughout the day—stopping at the water fountain and drinking coffee, tea, bottled water, and soft drinks at work or while watching TV are examples of spontaneous drinking.  The fact is that thirst plays a minor role in our daily fluid intake and that is especially true for those older adults who are inactive.  For those reasons, the reduced thirst sensitivity that occurs as we age does not have a major influence on our day-to-day hydration.  However, as with all things in life, there are exceptions.water

The dangers of dehydration

When older adults fall ill, suffer immobilizing injuries, or fight diseases, the loss of thirst sensitivity can contribute to dehydration because normal drinking at meals and spontaneously throughout the day is completely disrupted.  Age-related loss of thirst sensitivity can also be a problem during heat waves or with prolonged sweating during endurance exercise, long hikes, and yard work when sweating results in dehydration.

Periodic heat waves cause a disproportionate number of deaths among adults over age 50, deaths that occur mostly from heart failure, not from heat stroke.  Prolonged exposure to the heat creates enormous strain on the heart and blood vessels to deliver much more blood to the skin to aid in heat loss. Dehydration makes matters worse because the sweating and inadequate drinking that lead to dehydration reduce the total volume of blood, placing even greater strain on the heart.  For those with preexisting heart, lung, or kidney disease, that strain can simply be too much to handle, resulting in death.  Older adults who are ill, out of shape, lack air conditioning, and have limited access to fluids are at greatest risk during heat waves.

         On June 8, 1982, Leroy “Satchel” Paige died of heart failure and emphysema at age 75.  Satchel’s death occurred after a power failure at his home in Kansas City.  Although there was no heat wave at that time in Kansas City, the maximum temperature that day was 86 and the maximum relative humidity was 93%, a combination that would make it feel like 108.

Aging not only reduces our thirst sensitivity and prolongs the time it takes us to fully rehydrate after we become dehydrated as a result of physical activity or heat exposure, we also sweat less, our heart’s capacity to pump blood is less, we deliver less blood to the skin, and we are less able to divert blood from our internal organs into the main circulation, all of which makes it tougher to cope with the heat.

How to win at hydration

While that may sound like uniformly bad news, we can avoid the dire consequences by staying physically fit, acclimating to the heat, and reminding ourselves of the importance of drinking more, particularly whenever we sweat.  Getting outdoors in warm weather may initially feel uncomfortable, but our bodies will gradually acclimate over time.  That acclimation improves our sweating and our hydration because acclimation prompts us to drink more throughout the day.

Additional good news is that for maintaining hydration, virtually all fluids count.  Okay, that advice does not include shots of tequila or other liquors, but mixed drinks do count toward daily hydration, as do coffee, tea, colas, energy drinks, beer, and wine.  As with food, consuming a wide variety of fluids during the day is important for overall nutrition and for hydration, both of which are vital for good health. Summer fruits and veggies are high in water content, so snacking on grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, summer squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers deliver both water and nutrients.

For more on the importance of hydration and a guide to finding your individual hydration needs, see Dr. Murray’s chapter on hydration in Food & Fitness After 50.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Are you eating enough fruits & veggies?

Plate faceAre you eating enough fruits & veggies? Probably not, according to a new report from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention on fruit and vegetable consumption in the U.S. 

Most of us know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, offering protection against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers. Yet, only 12% of adults meet the recommended fruit intake (1.5-2 cups/day) and we do even worse with veggies; 9% get the suggested amount (2.5-3.5 cups.day).

Why are our eating habits so dismal when it comes to eating the good stuff? Many of us perceive that cooking and preparation is time consuming and difficult, so unless we slice a banana on our cereal or eat a serving of veggies with dinner, we don’t make much of an effort.

Many of you know that I don’t develop recipes like a lot of my dietitian friends. I’m more likely to assemble meals. So here are my ideas for getting more fruits and veggies into your meals. And, I welcome your ideas that might help others sneak in an extra serving or two (or three) of produce.

  • Never eat cereal, either hot or cold, without adding fresh or frozen berries.
  • Toss spinach and peppers into scrambled eggs or omelets.
  • Use fruit that is starting to get overripe in smoothies. Toss in fruit, add plain or vanilla Greek yogurt or milk and blend.
  • Salsa is a vegetable and is not just for tortilla chips. Add salsa to a baked potato, grilled fish or chicken, or on top of scrambled eggs.
  • Make protein-rich salads with canned black, kidney, or other starch beans or peas. Drain your favorite beans, add diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro and toss with a little oil and vinegar or Italian bottled salad dressing.
  • When you can’t get fresh veggies or fruits, don’t overlook frozen or canned. Today’s processing takes produce at it’s peak of ripeness and freezes or cans it quickly to preserve nutrients and taste.
  • Veggies - CopyTry a meatless pasta primavera
    • Saute broccoli, green, red, or yellow peppers, and onions in olive oil and serve over protein-enriched pasta (Barilla Protein-Plus Angel Hair pasta is my favorite); drizzle with olive oil and top with shaved Parmesan cheese.
  • Roast vegetables in the oven
    • Cut up broccoli, cauliflower, or use whole fresh Brussels sprouts and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and shake the pan or use tongs to flip the pieces and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. And, you can also try this on the grill.Grilled Brussels Sprouts
  • Grill fruit this summer
    • Thread watermelon cubes and shrimp on metal or wooden skewers; brush lightly with canola oil and grill for a few minutes on each side (grilling brings out a sweet, smoky taste to fruit).
    • Grill peaches by cutting a fresh peach in half, removing the pit, and brush lightly with canola oil. Place cut-side down on grill for a few minutes until lightly charred. Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or goat cheese.
  • Break out the wok, or a large frying pan 
    • Heat oil (I like to use peanut oil in the wok, it has a high smoke point so withstands the high temperatures for wok cooking) and toss in cut up pieces of chicken, cook until the chicken turns white and remove. Toss in all the bits and pieces of veggies in your vegetable bin. I like broccoli, carrots, celery, summer squash, onions, and peppers. Saute until cooked, but still crunchy, and add the chicken back into the pan. Season with chili paste to give it some kick, or reduced sodium soy sauce (or both!). Serve over brown rice.
  •  Bring veggies to summer parties
    • One of my favorites is caprese salad on a stick. Thread cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella pearls, and fresh basil leaves on a skewer. Drizzle with olive oil (I like Tuscan-herb infused olive oil for this appetizer) and you have a tasty, healthy, colorful dish. (You can find mozzarella pearls in the “fancy” cheese section of grocery stores and Walmart).
    • Steam edamame (immature soybeans in the pods) and lightly salt. Serve in the pods with small dish of soy sauce. Kids love to squeeze the beans out of the pod and into their mouths!
  • Let the kids help Hannah helps with Thanksgiving
    • Kids are more likely to eat fruits and veggies if they have a hand in the preparation. A few years ago my great niece, Hannah, helped me make this “turkey” veggie tray for Thanksgiving. She was so proud of the creation and she couldn’t wait to serve it to the family, and eat some veggies herself. Pinterest is great for easy ideas like this one.
  • Visit Fruits and Veggies More Matters for hundreds of other great ideas and everything you could ever want to know about fruits and veggies.

For more ideas on how to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet, see Food & Fitness After 50.