Drinking water is one of the most important aspects to staying healthy, especially as seniors. But why is hydration so important?
As we age, the water content in the body will decrease. In fact, water decreases by approximately 20% between the ages of 20 and 80. It can be different for everyone—more extreme for one and less extreme for another—but it is inevitable. This 20% decrease equates to roughly about six liters of water in the body. So, a small amount of water loss can make an individual more susceptible to the effects of dehydration.
This makes the risk for dehydration ever more prevalent as time passes. Among seniors, dehydration has been known to be associated with increased mortality rates. The cause of death may not be from dehydration, but rather, complications from being dehydrated. Staying hydrated is the easiest way to prevent this.
Causes and Effects of Dehydration
Being dehydrated can be due to a number of factors: medication intake and side effects, warm climate, strenuous exercise, diuretics or laxatives, or just poor water consumption habits. Making sure that water is being ingested is vital to maintaining a healthy body.
Seniors tend to have a reduction in the sensation that causes the body to recognize thirst. A senior may not feel thirsty, but actually is. This can have a cascading effect on the body. For example, less water will mean that the kidneys aren’t as able to retain water or condense urine, or filter and remove waste. This can lead to serious complications, like renal failure. To make things worse, aging bodies tend to have kidneys that are already weakening in those aspects.
Signs of Dehydration
Knowing and understanding when you’re dehydrated can mean the difference between fixing the problem and possibly ending up in a hospital.
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urination
- Cramping, especially in the extremities
- Rapid breathing
- Absence of sweat
- Low blood pressure
- Severe muscle contractions or cramps
Mild dehydration can lead to extreme dehydration if not taken care of in a timely manner. Extreme dehydration can eventually lead to brain swelling, renal failure, seizures, coma, and death.
Ways to Hydrate
Contrary to popular belief, just drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. There are, in fact, many ways to stay hydrated. Of course, simply drinking water is the best and most effective way to ensure hydration. While there is a slight diuretic effect, studies have shown that drinking coffee and tea are effective ways to hydrate. Choosing coffee that is decaffeinated or drinking green tea or herbal is best—because caffeine can restrict blood vessels and cause other issues. You can also stay hydrated by drinking milk. Not only will milk provide you with hydration, it will also give you essential vitamins and minerals, as well as protein and fat.
Another way to stay hydrated is to eat water-rich fruits. Watermelon, for example, is 90% water and can provide a good amount of hydration, as well as an assortment of vitamins, minerals, and plant fiber.
Alcohol is a major dehydrator. If you do plan to drink, try to limit your intake of alcoholic beverages to one or two glasses, and counteract the dehydrating effects by drinking just as much water. A simple ratio is a 1-to-1, alcohol to water. So during happy hour at Bonaventure Senior Living, have a glass of wine as well as a glass of water, and enjoy yourself. We believe that being safe and having fun go hand-in-hand.
Drinking water throughout the day is a very effective means to make sure that the body is functioning at peak performance. Some people may not like the taste, or lack thereof water. Try adding a little bit of lemon juice or supplementing with other water-rich drinks, like the above examples.
At all Bonaventure Senior Living communities, we encourage you to stay active, stay hydrated, and have fun. All communities have areas devoted to staying hydrated (like our café), and also encourage residents to drink water on a regular basis, especially in the summer months.
So raise a glass to the many wonders of water and drink to your health.