As we get older our internal thirst clock gets weaker, when we get into our 60’s for mostly unknown reasons our body doesn’t let us know we are thirsty or getting dehydrate. Hat tip 🎩 To
By K. Aleisha Fetters, Contributor
Becoming dehydrated carries a significant risk of negative outcomes, including disability, morbidity and even mortality in older adults, who are among the most likely to be dehydrated, according to 2015 research published in the Journal of Gerontology Nursing. Between 20% and 30% of older adults are chronically dehydrated.
Why Dehydration Is Common in Older Adults
The first, and perhaps most perplexing, cause of dehydration in older adults is a lack of thirst. During the aging process, thirst sensation naturally decreases, says Dr. Audrey Chun, vice chair of geriatric and palliative medicine outpatient services in the Mount Sinai Health System and director of Coffey Geriatrics at The Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mount Sinai Hospital. While the mechanisms are not clear-cut, thirst levels in adults older than 65 are commonly far lower than indicative of the body's actual fluid needs. Because of this decreased thirst sensation, many adults do not drink as much as they did in their younger days, says Dr. Sanjay Kurani, medical director of inpatient medicine at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California.
Plus, throughout the aging process, the kidneys naturally lose some of their ability to conserve water and concentrate urine, leading to greater fluid losses through urination. A decline in muscle mass, referred to as sarcopenia, can also reduce how much water the body can store, as muscl functions as a significant holding area for water molecules. One out of three adults age 60 and older suffers from severe muscle loss.
What's more, commonly used over-the-counter and prescription medication can contribute to fluid losses as well. "Blood pressure medications such as diuretics are commonly associated with dehydration in the elderly," Kurani says. "Antihistamines and laxatives are also medications that can result in dehydration.
The Effects of Dehydration on Our Health.
For anyone, even mild dehydration – as low as 2% of one's body weight – can contribute to confusion, fatigue, loss of strength, reduced coordination and decreased cognitive function.
"These effects are exacerbated in older adults because they are more likely to have underlying chronic conditions and a blunted response to adapt to the physiological stressors that occur with dehydration," Chun says.
Combined, these symptoms can contribute to falls, accidents and injury, Kurani says. In severe cases, dehydration can result in kidney damage, muscle damage and hypovolemic shock, in which blood levels decrease to the point that oxygen levels drop to dangerous levels (when blood levels are too low, the heart is unable to take in and pump out enough blood). Since adequate fluids are vital for cells to function well, dehydration can decrease the body's ability to fight infection, heal and overcome health complications. How to Stay Hydrated
To ensure that you're well hydrated, it's important to first talk to your doctor about any medical conditions that could predispose you to dehydration or affect you. Discuss your health history as well as any over-the-counter or prescription medications that you are taking, and make sure to have an annual physical to identify any conditions, such as prediabetes and diabetes, as soon as they develop.
Many of the earliest signs of dehydration, including fatigue, dizziness and muscle cramps, can often be attributed to the natural aging process, other health conditions or medications. Pay attention to these symptoms and talk to your doctor if you experience them or a have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, which can increase your risk of dehydration, Chun says.
FOUND OUT THE HARD WAY
While hacking my way to better hydration whether that means carrying a water bottle, tracking our water intake or infusing our H2O with some fruit. Nevertheless, i still was not drinking enough water. After two trips to the ER of what I thought was possible heart issues only to find all vitals just fine. But as a SOP I was given IV after about two hours I felt so much better. But I didn’t understand why at the time, until same thing again. After the second time and a bunch of testing all okay, I started noticing a pattern of when i was very thirsty my symptoms returned I made the connection. So I started checking out the connection with being over 60 and dehydration, just to find dozens of articles on that very topic. As we age it’s a must to make an intentional effort to do the simple things just like enough water intake can make huge improvements in our overall health.
Audrey K. Chun, MD
Sanjay B. Kurani, MD