My folks are still teaching me. It seems you never grow out of your function as a student with your parents. The lesson is that good health and living a green lifestyle are inextricably connected.

I’m not arguing that if you live a green lifestyle, eat whole and organic foods, exercise, and get enough sleep, you’ll always be healthy, but I am suggesting that you can hedge your bets with a few easy habits and live a better life than if you don’t.

Have you ever considered the connection between diseases and dehydration? Or how they affect your life, health, and well-being? This is an invitation to pause and think about it. My parents had recently taught me about the consequences of dehydration and infections, particularly under-treated diseases in seniors.

My Bigger Half and I went to see Rock and No-Nonsense and assisted in organizing a family celebration. We discovered No-Nonsense had vertigo and a UTI when we arrived (urinary tract infection). No-Nonsense wasn’t drinking much water since moving around made her dizzy (think about the ramifications of drinking the water and the after-effects if moving makes you nauseous). No amount of persuading her to drink water changed her mind. Even her doctor couldn’t change her mind about not drinking much water!

OK, OK, she “gets” to live her life her way, a difficult lesson for this daughter to swallow after being the paragon of good behaviors. I even heard Rock murmur something about guiding a horse to water under his breath, so I know I’m not the only one frustrated here.

On the second night of our stay, Rock discovered No-Nonsense trying to get into bed and asked me to assist. That’s when we discovered her confused and behaving strangely. While waiting for My Bigger Half to bring the stethoscope and blood pressure cuff, I shifted from my daughter’s to my EMT hat and began asking her questions. A low blood pressure prompted Rock to phone his doctor, who agreed with what My Bigger Half and I had concluded: transport her to the ER. We suspected she was suffering a stroke.

We only knew she wasn’t experiencing a stroke after a battery of testing. We concluded that she had AMS (Altered Mental Status) due to her illness (or diseases) and dehydration. A clever way of saying she was lost, confused, and not herself.

When we told a few acquaintances about this event, we began hearing similar accounts about other seniors who had AMS due to infections or dehydration. I heard so many tales that it dawned on me that this is a very typical occurrence.

The gist of my conversation with No-Nonsense was that it’s important to drink enough water throughout the day. Of course, “ample” is a subjective term that changes depending on place and context. She believed that the 18 oz of water she drank every day was plenty, but the illness proved otherwise. Most individuals are advised to drink 8 8-oz glasses of water each day. You use around 10-10.5 glasses of water daily simply by living normally. About 20% of your liquid needs are met by meals; therefore, the remainder is met by what you drink. I’m not going to debate whether any old beverage qualifies as water replacement, but I would say that drinking two liters of water daily is the best way.

I went on to tell No-Nonsense that if you don’t drink enough water, your blood thickens. The heart is strained by thick blood since it must work harder to transport heavier liquid through your veins. Furthermore, thick blood does not transport as much oxygen, depriving your brain and heart of the oxygen they need for optimum function. All of your internal and exterior organs suffer from thick, deoxygenated blood. Drinking water also aids in the healing process by cleaning out toxins from the body.

Diarrhea, dry lips, dry eyes, headache, heart palpitations, muscular cramps, nausea, not sweating, shriveled skin, stinging during urination, thirst, and vomiting are all signs and symptoms of dehydration. Severe dehydration causes disorientation and weakness, progressing to coma and death if not treated.

You may do a few easy tests on yourself to determine dehydration. Examine the individual’s orientation, vital signs, temperature, and skin reactions. Adult orientation is asking questions, presuming they are awake, to determine how aware they are of their environment. You may also evaluate for muscular tone in newborns and elderly, as well as listlessness and how awake, attentive, and focused the individual is. Check the fontanel (the soft region at the top of an infant’s head) for drunkenness, indicating dehydration.

You may not have the equipment to measure blood pressure, but you may take a pulse; a racing pulse, or one quicker than usual, might indicate dehydration. Skin reactions are also instructive; stretchy skin indicates hydrated skin (lightly grab a bit of skin between your fingers and let go; if the skin “tents” for several seconds, the person is dehydrated). Dehydrated skin may feel heated as well.

Dehydration also causes electrolytes to be lost. This worsens muscular weakness and cardiac arrhythmia, which may strain the kidneys as they try to correct the electrolyte imbalance. Dehydration is particularly dangerous for the elderly and children.

Now, let’s talk about infection and how it relates to my lesson. The nonsense of developing a UTI rose with age, remaining stationary for an extended period, and being a woman. Confusion or changed mental state may be caused by infections. Caffeine and alcohol, by the way, are two beverages you should avoid if you have a UTI. You should also drink lots of fluids if you have an illness. In fact, drinking lots of fluids regularly helps lower the likelihood of a UTI. Aha! There’s that getting enough liquids thing again.

Back to the portion of this essay about the elixir of a healthy life. I strongly believe in drinking filtered (rather than bottled) water from glass or stainless steel containers. There’s a lot of it. I believe it has mystical properties.

Every day, I drink at least two liters. People who live in hot regions or exercise should drink more than two liters of water to replenish the water lost due to heat or exercise. If you begin now, you will be in the habit by the time you are a senior (a moving target, to say the least).

Staying hydrated can assist your body in maintaining a healthy body, one that is capable of fighting viruses. Ample water in your system will assist all your organs, from your skin to your heart and brain, to your digestive systems, in being healthy, vibrant, and functioning properly.

When unwell, maintain drinking plenty of fluids to help your body recuperate. Take note of your mental state as well. If you find you aren’t yourself, go to the doctor or the emergency department.

We can discuss which fluids count toward your two liters each day later. Pure water, on the other hand, cannot be beaten. Here’s to living green for your health!

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