The danger of dehydration in the elderly

by | Aug 2, 2012 | Aging gracefully, Nutrition & Diet | 0 comments

Why Older People Need to Be Vigilant About the Amount of Water They Drink

Older people get dehydrated more easily than younger people, so it’s common for an older person to experience a subtle level of dehydration without even being aware of it.

Here are some of the reasons an older person might be at risk of dehydration:

  • Your kidneys don’t work as strongly as before, so the urine they create isn’t as concentrated.  So to eliminate the same amount of waste product, you have to excrete extra water with it.
  • Lots of medications alter your metabolism and contribute to dehydration.  If you take diuretics for your blood pressure, the problem becomes that much worse.
  • An older person might be less aware of the feeling of thirst, or might lack the ease of mobility to walk to the kitchen to pour a glass of water.
  • If incontinence is an issue, then you might minimize your risk of leakage by limiting the amount you drink.

Some of the physical symptoms of subtle dehydration are:

  • Dry mouth, little tearing or sweating
  • Dry skin
  • General lack of energy
  • Rapid heart beat (that’s because if your fluids are low, your blood volume will be low too, so you’ll have to cycle your blood through your body more rapidly to compensate.)
  • Muscle weakness, fatigue

Feeling confused or forgetful?

The aging brain needs all the help it can get to stay sharp.

If you’re dehydrated, you’re making it that much harder for your brain cells to get the nourishment they need.  The side-effects can include forgetfulness, light-headedness, confusion, or even disorientation.

It’s easy to see how these symptoms can get misdiagnosed in an older person.

Your Solution

  • Drink more, of course.
  • All sources of fluid count.  That means fruits, vegetables, and soups all help.
  • Tune in to your body and your body’s needs.  Sometimes there’s a simple way to address your problems.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.

 

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