The Importance of Hydration for Seniors’ Health

Remembering medications, health appointments, exercising, eating well, and maintaining healthy lifestyle practices can make growing older feel like it comes with an unending list of things to do and keep track of. As task lists grow and priorities pile up, it becomes easy for some elements to get forgotten or pushed to bottom of the list in favour of prioritizing things that feel more urgent or important for promoting good health.

One thing that is incredibly important, but is rarely given as much attention as it needs, is the essential practice of daily senior hydration. Sufficient hydration is imperative for the body’s functions, so seniors should be mindful and purposeful about finding ways to ensure they are drinking enough water every day.

Dehydration in Seniors

Good hydration is crucial for health at any age, but it is particularly important for seniors. A great many seniors do not drink nearly enough water, often because aging causes a significant reduction in the sensation of thirst, while the water reserves in the body also decrease with age.

Dehydration is among the top 10 causes of hospitalization for seniors, and failing to maintain a proper level of hydration can have a detrimental impact on various aspects of overall health.

Impacts of Dehydration

Seniors’ bodies are impacted more seriously by dehydration than those of their younger counterparts, and lack of hydration can have damaging outcomes on various parts of the body.

Liver

The liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of the blood, but if the blood is too thick due to lack of hydration, then toxins can build up in the body as the liver is not able to properly filter them out.

Kidneys

Drinking lots of water results in consistent urination to rid the body of toxins and waste. Dehydration can cause a buildup of waste and acids in the body that can clog and damage the kidneys. Extensive dehydration can result in kidney failure.

Heart

Dehydration causes unnecessary strain on the heart. Lack of hydration reduces the volume of blood in the body, and the heart has to work harder and beat faster to compensate.

Digestive System

The colon, also called the large intestine, pulls water from the body to aid in the digestive process. When the body is dehydrated, and there is not enough water to extract, the result is typically abdominal pain, cramps, and constipation.

Brain

Brain cells require water to perform various cognitive functions. Dehydration makes the brain work harder to complete simple tasks. Dehydration can result in impaired memory, attention, mood, and general brain performance.

Effects of Dehydration on Daily Life

Dehydration can cause a range of symptoms that can negatively impact the quality of daily life. Poor hydration can lead to:

  • Increased risk of falls
  • Impaired cognitive skills
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased mobility
  • Constipation
  • Confusion

Cases of extreme dehydration may result in a variety of serious health problems and even death if left unchecked.

Preventing Dehydration

Each of the concerns mentioned above reinforce the notion that proper water consumption is integral for seniors. The following are some behaviours and tools to help motivate seniors to drink enough water and keep themselves hydrated:

  • Monitor Consumption of Dehydrating Food/Drinks: Salty foods and drinks that are high in caffeine, such as tea, coffee, and many soft drinks, are dehydrating to the body. Try reducing consumption of these items, or at least monitoring them, to make sure enough water is consumed to counteract their dehydrating effects.
  • Eat Hydrating Foods: Try increasing the intake of foods with a higher water content, such as vegetables and juicy fruits. This provides an additional source of hydration.
  • Drink Water at Every Chance: Any chance to get in a little extra hydration is beneficial for health. When taking a sip of water to swallow a pill, try drinking an entire glass.
  • Be Proactive: Rather than only drinking when the sensation of thirst strikes, treat drinking enough water as a chore or task for the day that must be completed. It is recommended that the average person try to get about 2 litres, or around 8 glasses, of water each day to stay sufficiently hydrated.
  • Choose Beverages You Like: While drinking water is undoubtedly the best way to get hydrated, consuming other liquids that you enjoy can be beneficial too. Juices, herbal teas, soup broths, and other beverages can help with hydration as well.
  • Always Have Water Accessible: Keep a glass or pitcher of water in the rooms at home in which the most time is spent to make sure it is always accessible, and take bottled water out whenever leaving the house.

Drinking sufficient amounts of water might not seem like an urgent matter for promoting and maintaining health in comparison to other health-oriented activities, such as remembering to take medications. However, the reality is that proper hydration is vital for the promotion and protection of health, especially when it comes to seniors.  Incorporating behaviours and strategies that help keep seniors amply hydrated can lead to better overall health and wellbeing for seniors in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge.

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