Dehydration can creep up on you and cause serious health problems. It’s important to recognize the signs and drink before you feel parched.

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During summer’s heat, it’s easy to become dehydrated without realizing it. And dehydration, which occurs when you lose more water via sweat and urine than you’ve taken in, can be especially dangerous for older adults.

A lack of sufficient fluid in the body can temporarily cause confusion and put you at risk for falls. When severe, dehydration can lead to a rapid or irregular heart rate, low blood pressure, fainting and even death. “How much water you have affects every body system,” says Jodi Stookey, an epidemiologist in San Francisco.

Staying well hydrated becomes more difficult with age because your sense of thirst tends to diminish with time. Diuretics, often prescribed for high blood pressure and heart failure, can exaggerate water loss. But you can protect yourself. Here’s how:

Know the signs

Dehydration can be challenging to detect as we age because classic signs such as dry mouth, thirst, fatigue and skin that doesn’t spring back quickly when pinched can also be caused by other factors. In fact, a 2015 review of research by the independent Cochrane Collaboration found that there was no single reliable test for dehydration.

The color of your urine can sometimes be a clue. In general, healthy urine is the shade of pale straw. The darker your urine, the less hydrated you may be. But aspirin, multivitamins and certain fruits and vegetables can also affect the shade of your urine.

If you suspect you might be dehydrated based on your urine’s color and/or the other signs mentioned, try drinking two to three full glasses of water during the course of an hour or two, advises Marvin M. Lipman, Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser. If you still have symptoms of dehydration or don’t urinate within four hours, it’s wise to contact your doctor.

Getting enough

So how much — and what — should you drink? There’s really no overarching rule, and what’s…

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