Proper Hydration Can Improve Senior Health

Proper Hydration Can Improve Senior Health

There’s nothing like a cold glass of water on a hot, sunny day. The relief from the drink is palpable; you can feel it from the inside out. The refreshment is fantastic but it’s not the only benefit.

Water is the key to all bodily functions. In fact, the United States Geological Survey says that 55-60% of the human body is made up of water.1 So when you drink water, you are literally restoring yourself to equilibrium.

That’s why dehydration can be such a dangerous condition. When you are dehydrated, every system and organ in your body suffers. From the lubrication in your joints to how effectively your heart pumps to how well your kidneys flush toxins from your body, water is a key ingredient in seniors staying healthy.

Read on to discover why the elderly are at a higher risk for dehydration.

Why Do the Elderly Get Dehydrated So Easily?

While anyone can get dehydrated, it’s much easier for the elderly to get far less water than they need. There are several reasons for this:

·        As you get older, the composition of your body shifts, leaving you with less water in your cells and tissues. That’s a normal part of aging, but it can lead you to feeling as though you need less water when you actually need more.

·        Your sense of thirst diminishes with age. Your body might need water but you don’t notice the signs. As a result, you drink less, which leads to dehydration.

·        Your body doesn’t regulate temperature as effectively as it used to. This means that when you exercise, you might need more water than you think you do.

·        Many seniors have chronic medical conditions that require medications. Some of those medications can lead to dehydration. When you combine the loss of water in the body with the lack of thirst, you have a serious problem waiting to happen.

·        Those who have trouble with mobility might weigh the need to drink more water with the difficulty it takes to get to the kitchen to get a glass of it. Even the fear of falling can make someone less likely to move to the faucet to draw a drink.

·        If you are among the 44% of seniors over the age of 65 who deal with urinary incontinence, you might hesitate to drink enough water.2

·        Some other medical conditions might make you more susceptible to dehydration. Cystic fibrosis is a good example.

A study from UCLA found that up to 40% of seniors might be dehydrated on a regular basis.3 Dehydration can lead to serious consequences for anyone, but especially for seniors. A medical alert system with fall detection is a great safety measure for any senior concerned about their health.

How Do You Know if You’re Dehydrated?

Having enough water for your body to function properly is vital. But there is no hard-and-fast rule for how much water you should have; the old rule of eight glasses of eight ounces each day works well for some, but how much you actually need depends upon many factors, including your activity level and the medications you’re taking.

But how do you know if you’re dehydrated? According to the American Heart Association, when you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.4 But this can be tough for seniors who don’t feel the signals of thirst as well as they used to.

In that case, a good rule of thumb is the color of your urine. If it is pale yellow or clear, you probably have enough water in your body. If it’s dark-colored, you need to drink more.

You can also go with the “weight to ounces” rule. The idea is to take one-third of your body weight and drink that many ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, one-third of that is 60 ounces. Therefore, you should drink 60 ounces in a day to stay well-hydrated.

Dehydration can also have some serious symptoms, including:

·        Headaches

·        Dizziness

·        Fatigue

·        Weakness

·        Dry mouth

·        Muscle cramps

·        Irritability

·        Confusion or disorientation

·        Dry mouth and throat

·        Very dry skin

·        Eyes with a “sunken” appearance

·        Decreased cognitive function

·        Urinating less frequently

Many of these problems can lead to a higher fall risk for seniors. And since so many seniors are dehydrated and don’t realize it, having a way to reach out for help if you feel weak, dizzy, or otherwise suffering from symptoms of dehydration is very important. A personal emergency response system can give you peace of mind. If you feel the symptoms of dehydration or suffer from any other sort of medical emergency, press the panic button and within moments, a trained professional from a monitoring center will be on the line, ready to help you.

Dehydration can lead to serious consequences other than falls, such as heart problems, kidney failure, urinary tract infections, blood clots, and a lowered immune response. All of these issues are just more reasons to have a medical alert system at your fingertips – and to drink more water.  

Different Ways to Get the Water You Need

But what if you hate the taste of water? Some people can’t tolerate water even if it is chilled or ice-cold. The good news is that while simply drinking water itself is the gold standard to fight dehydration, there are many ways to get more water through good nutrition.

You should incorporate foods with high water content into your diet every day. You might be surprised how many good options there are! Try these for a burst of hydration:

·        All sorts of fruits, including strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, and any other fruit that is juicy.

·        Cucumbers, lettuce, bell peppers, and tomatoes all have impressive water content, so eat your salads.

·        Skim milk and yogurt bring high water content as well.

·        Soups and broths can give you plenty of fluid, but avoid any with a higher sodium content and go for low-sodium versions.

·        Ricotta cheese and cottage cheese have high water content.

·        Make smoothies with plenty of fruit and a coconut water base for more electrolytes.

·        Jazz up plain water with a packet of flavored electrolyte powder, such as Gatorade. But you can also just use plain fruit juices to add a dash of delight, such as a squeeze of lemon or a wedge of orange in the glass.

·        Protein and nutritional shakes, such as Ensure, can give you plenty of health benefits in addition to the hydration you need.

Remember that not all fluids should count toward your daily hydration. The National Council on Aging points out that coffee and tea can actually dehydrate you in the long run, so you shouldn’t count those towards improving your hydration. And alcohol is a diuretic that removes water from the bloodstream – that’s the last thing you want. So if you imbibe, don’t count it toward your daily hydration needs.5

How to Make Sure You Get More Water Each Day

Since you might not notice when you are thirsty, make a point of incorporating water into your daily routine. Keep a glass or bottle of water beside the bed or next to your favorite chair. If you have pets, choose a vessel with a lid or cap in case it gets knocked over. Make a routine of drinking a measured amount of water at a certain time; for instance, you could build a routine of drinking 8 ounces of water before every meal or after going to the bathroom.

Take water with you wherever you go. Keep a bottle of water in the car and carry a thermos of iced water with you when you go for a walk or to the gym. When you go to a restaurant, ask for a glass of water before you even look at the menu.

The symptoms of dehydration can sneak up on you and cause problems before you are aware it’s happening. In addition to actively reminding yourself to drink more water, it’s also a good idea to look into a medical alert device for seniors. This can come in handy if you suffer the severe symptoms of dehydration. Press the medical alarm button and get help in seconds.

If you opt for the medical alert system with fall detection, you’re in even better hands. The tiny fall sensors in the fall detection alarm pendant will register the sudden motion of a fall and reach out to a monitoring center on your behalf. This can be very important for those who might become dizzy, confused, or disoriented as a result of dehydration.

As you go through your day, keep that peace of mind with you, even as you get into the shower. Alert1 medical alarms are shower-proof, so you can stay protected at all times. Also keep a bottle of water handy as you go through your day and fight dehydration with regular sips, even if you don’t feel like you need them. And as always, talk to your doctor about how much more water you actually need to stay safe and hydrated all through the summer.