For a long time, we've been led to believe we need to drink 8 cups of water a day, but “this number doesn’t come from any research,” says Riana Pryor, who specializes in heat and hydration research at the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut. And although First Lady Michelle Obama’s new message urging Americans to drink more water is a good one for many reasons, no federal guidelines actually exist telling us how much water we should be drinking.
The latest guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommend that most women consume about 91 ounces—that’s actually about 9 cups of total water a day. Men need a bit more; about 125 ounces (or 13 cups) a day. But there's good news: that total includes other beverages (like coffee, tea, soda and milk) as well as foods (for example, one medium apple translates to about 6 ounces of fluid).
Since water makes up more than two-thirds of the weight of the human body, staying hydrated is important for a few reasons. Water lubricates and cushions your joints, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and transports wastes from your body through perspiration, urination, and bowel movements. Being hydrated helps with memory and cognition; it also helps to improve your mood and immune function.
In terms of how much you really need, it depends on your size, weight, age, activity level, and more. Both children and adults over 50 have thirst mechanisms that are behind the normal healthy population. The danger? You might be slower to recognize thirst and thus be at more risk of becoming dehydrated (especially children, who lose water through increased activity and sweat). A helpful reminder to stay hydrated: keep some water within reach whenever possible and take frequent sips throughout the day.
Just like high blood pressure, high cholesterol can also increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Therefore it's a good idea to have your cholesterol checked to see whether you need to undergo certain lifestyle changes or even possibly take some kind of cholesterol-lowering medication. For more information about cholesterol and saturated fats, go here. Eating certain foods, such as beans, which are rich in fiber and antioxidants, can help lower cholesterol.
The number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes is expected to rise from 30 million today to 46 million by 2030, when one of every four boomers -- 14 million -- will be living with this chronic disease, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Untreated diabetes can lead to blindness, amputations and clogged arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. The test to determine whether you are diabetic is a simple blood test; you should remind your doctor to include it in your annual physical.
5. Pack On The Pounds
More than one out of every three boomers -- more than 21 million -- will be considered obese by 2030. Already, we are the demographic with the highest and fastest-growing rate of obesity. As we age, our metabolism slows down and we burn fewer calories -- if we don't alter our eating and exercise patterns, weight gain is inevitable. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and a host of other life-threatening ailments. Losing just 10 percent of your body weight has health benefits, so consider that as a goal.
6. Ignore The Signs Of A Heart Attack
No chest pain doesn't mean no heart attack. Women having heart attacks frequently report experiencing a feeling of indigestion and extreme fatigue, while some men say they feel a fullness or a squeezing pain in the center of the chest, which may spread to the neck, shoulder or jaw. When a diabetic has a heart attack, the pain is often displaced to other areas such as the lower back.
7. Get Little Sleep
Try as you might, you just can't stay asleep, right? You pass out before "60 Minutes" is over, but then wake up around midnight and count sheep until the alarm goes off. If that sounds like you, you aren't alone. The U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsays that boomers report not getting enough sleep between one and 13 nights each month. Is it life-threatening? In itself, no. But as soon as you slip behind the wheel bleary-eyed, you are putting yourself and others at risk. Your reflexes are slower, you pay less attention and you could become one of the more than 100,000 Americans who fall asleep at the wheel and crash each year. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that's a conservative estimate, by the way. Driver fatigue results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
8. Avoid Exercise
AARP says the minimum you need to stay healthy are muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week, plus 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity like walking or 75 minutes a week of a more intense activity like jogging. Exercise is also good for your memory: Just one year of walking three times a week can increase the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that's key to memory.
9. Carry The World's Burdens On Your Shoulders
We're talking about stress with a capital S. Boomers are the sandwich generation, caught in the middle of caring for our parents and our children. We were deeply affected by the recession and boomers have the highest rates of depression by age demographic. Unless we unload, we are going to implode.
10. Carry A Beer Belly And A Caboose
It isn't just our extra weight; it's where we carry it. An excess of visceral fat causes our abdomens to protrude excessively. We call it a "pot belly" or "beer belly" or if the visceral fat is on our hips and buttocks, we say we are "apple shaped." Cute names aside, scientists now say that body fat, instead of body weight, is the key to evaluating obesity. And guess what? It's all bad.