The Hydration Issue
We often underestimate the important role of hydration in our daily lives. As infants, water comprises 75% of our body weight. This percentage reduces to 55% in the elderly population. No matter your age, water is essential for cellular homeostasis and life. During my time in Haiti, I learned that not enough water in your system causes it to run poorly. Dehydration contributed to a wide number of multi-system conditions – GI issues, cardiac complications, hypotension, bladder and kidney infections. These are less common in our civilized society, however chronic mild dehydration remains an underlying contributing factor for older adults. Maintaining hydration is the easiest way to flush out unwanted bacteria and keep your system running smoothly.
Keep an Eye On Dehydration Symptoms
Your body naturally wants to maintain equilibrium of all fluids and nutrients. This equilibrium allows your body to operate optimally. When you use or lose more fluid than you take in, your body doesn’t have enough water to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace lost fluids, you will become dehydrated. It’s that simple!
In a dehydrated state, circulation of blood to body organs and tissues becomes compromised. When organs and tissues receive inadequate perfusion of blood, they are unable to function in a normal manner and may show symptoms of dysfunction. Let’s break it down.
- Increased confusion: Decreased perfusion to the brain can impair the thought processes of the older adult.
- Dark yellow urine: The color of urine is an easy indicator of your hydration status. Darker urine indicates decreased blood flow to the kidneys. Well-hydrated kidneys will lead to pale yellow or clear urine output.
- Constipation: Fluids help to keep the stool soft to make them easily passable. When inadequate fluids are consumed constipation may result.
- Dizziness when you stand: Orthostatic hypotension can be a temporary sensation often disguised as a condition of the elderly. Staying hydrated may be the first line of defense against this misunderstood diagnosis.
- Fever: Watch out for an increase in body temperature. The body compensates for reduced blood volume by raising body temperature. This can be a more severe signal of dehydration.
- Urine output: Urine output less than 500 mL (2 cups) per day is a sign of dehydration.
- Loss of appetite: A dry or sticky mouth does not excite the senses to eat.
How far are you from being dehydrated? Research suggests it’s a lot closer than you may think.
Don’t Let Chronic Mild Dehydration Sneak Up On You
A portion of the population may be chronically mildly dehydrated*. These factors are more severe as we age. Several factors may increase the likelihood of chronic dehydration:
- A poor thirst mechanism: The sensation of thirst isn’t a reliable indicator for older adults. If you’re “thirsty,” you’re already dehydrated.
- Dissatisfaction with the taste of water: Our taste buds die off as we age, so water’s tastelessness may be off-putting. Keep reading to discover how to improve the taste of water!
- Common consumption of diuretics: Caffeine, some medications, and alcohol are all They accelerate the kidneys to remove water from your body. Diuretics are often prescribed for certain heart conditions, but for the most part should be avoided. Replace every cup of coffee with two cups of water.
- Participation in exercise: the benefits of daily exercise drastically outweigh the negatives here. Keep in mind that during exercise your body is processing extra fluids. During and after immediately after exercise you should re-hydrate with 1 liter (about 35 ounces) an hour. This will minimize sweat-induced performance deficits.
- Environmental conditions: The hotter the weather, the more your body has to work. You lose more fluids through sweat, saliva, and urination in the summer time.
Carry a water bottle
- If you make a water bottle a part of your every day necessities, it will be only natural to use it. Like lipstick or car keys, your water bottle should be used every day.
Spice it up
- Say you don’t care for the taste of water. No problem there, add some chunks of fresh or frozen fruit to your water bottle in the morning. Fruit flavor will make water more appealing.
Fruits and Vegetables
- How can eating fruits and vegetables help with your hydration? I’m glad you asked. Most fruits and veggies are made up of 90% water! Ingesting them at every meal is sure to give you a heart-healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, and fiber for everyday health (along with some water).
* as reported by The Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys
The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with Heather Lane Physical Therapy or another qualified healthcare provider.