Water: Most Overlooked Nutrient

Why? And How You Can Fix It

The #'s Behind our World and Aging

The number of seniors is reaching historically unforeseen levels. In 1950, seniors between 45 and 75 years old made up 19% of the total population, whereas the United Nations forecasts 32% by 2050. Actually, beginning around 45 years old, the ageing process begins earlier than we think. The body evolves slow enough that if often goes unnoticed. For example, nutritional needs change due to physiological modifications that affect body composition, water balance and bone health. The body becomes less efficient than before and starts to feel the first signs of ageing. All of these changes are of course unavoidable! However, it is possible to take action in order to protect oneself as much as possible against premature ageing. It starts with adequate hydration.

Why Dehydration Occurs More Often in the Older Adult Population

The Facts

There are many reason's the older adult is more susceptible to dehydration than the rest of the population as human error is not the only one. As we age, many functions in our body that we grow used to relying on is not as effective or diminishes over time. For Example, your sweat glands are supposed to excrete sweat to help your body cool off during warm weather or when you are exercising. In the older adult, these sweat glands shrink and become less active/effective.


Another change in the body as we age is the thirst sensations sent by our hypothalamus diminishes. This perceptive signaling by our thirst center would tell us we are thirsty and then trigger our desire to increase our fluid intake but when that signal decreases, it leads to less replenishing of what our body needs.


With Age, the kidney's function declines. The reason this affects hydration and thirst is because when you are thirsty, your kidney's receive signaling from within your kidney's (which also diminishes) that you have too high of a blood concentration or low water in your blood. This would then cause the circulation within the kidneys to constrict limiting the water to be released in your urine. When this function is altered, it can lead to rapid dehydration.


These changes can be dangerous if not managed properly by the person affected by them. They only get worse if you also have medical problems like Diabetes and Hypertension.


So as you can see, you shouldn't just rely on the dry sensations in your mouth or the increased desire to drink water to cue you in on when to drink fluids. It is just way too late to do it then. It is much better just to keep up with the hydration from the moment you wake every morning.

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Recommendations to Help Curtail Dehydration and Heat Injury

Be sure to eat healthy and adequate meals throughout the day.


Stay fit and active so as to keep your body's "engine" running effectively. It is recommended to have at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. You can go for walks, jogging, yoga and many other things.


If you do go outside to be active, it wouldn't be a bad idea to go with a buddy. Even if you are hydrating, a friend can be a difference between dehydration and heat stroke as you can help each other spot signs right when they occur.


Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. But do not forget to eat healthy snacks while doing so. You must avoid or limit your intake of teas, coffee, other caffeinated beverages, and alcohol. These types of drinks act as a diuretic which makes you urinate more which can increase risks of dehydration. This can keep you balanced.


If symptoms of exhaustion, being overheated, or you get any muscle cramps, take a break in the shade or indoors, hydrate and stretch out the cramped muscles.


Finally most importantly, keep up on your checkups with your Doctor so as to keep your engine well looked after and finely tuned. Just because you are getting older doesn't mean you have to act older! Be healthy, stay active and stay young.

Mayo Clinic

If you have any questions regarding hydration, dehydration or water intoxication. Feel free to reach out to your Primary Care Physician or refer to the Mayo Clinic Website. The link is below.

References

Goldberg, L. R., Heiss, C. J., Parsons, S. D., Foley, A. S., Mefferd, A. S., Hollinger, D., Patterson, J. (2014). Hydration in older adults: The contribution of bioelectrical impedance analysis. Int J Speech Lang Pathol International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 16(3), 273-281.


Wotton, K., Crannitch, K., & Munt, R. (2008). Prevalence, risk factors and strategies to prevent dehydration in older adults. Contemporary Nurse, 31(1), 44-56.