Water is something that we all need, yet many seniors don’t get enough of it. Studies have shown that roughly 20% to 50% of seniors are dehydrated. On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “plain water intake” is lower among seniors than in younger adults. Aside from dry mouth, though, dehydration can lead to a myriad of health concerns for seniors.
Seniors who don’t drink an adequate amount of water are more likely to experience kidney problems than their well-hydrated counterparts. Water encourages the dilation of blood vessels. If a senior is dehydrated, less nutrient-rich blood will reach his or her kidneys.
Staying hydrated is important for seniors because it promotes healthy kidney function. The kidneys, of course, are responsible for filtering waste from blood. Seniors who are dehydrated will have constricted blood vessels, resulting in less blood reaching the kidneys. The end result is a higher risk of kidney disease.
Water does more than just promote healthy kidney function; it helps to regulate a senior’s body temperature so that he or she doesn’t overheat.
The human body is designed to operate at a temperature of about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When a senior’s body temperature rises too high, he or she will sweat to cool off. Perspiration is the human body’s natural cooling mechanism. It allows heat to escape from the body in the form of water droplets. Because sweat consists of water, though, seniors must stay hydrated. Otherwise, they may overheat in hot and humid environments.
There’s a strong correlation between dehydration and digestive problems. Digestion begins the moment when a person begins to chew food. Saliva in the person’s mouth will help to break down the food before it enters his or her stomach. If a senior is dehydrated, he or she may have an insufficient amount of saliva for this initial digestive process to occur.
Furthermore, water promotes the absorption of nutrients within the digestive tract. As water mixes with food, it pulls nutrients from the food matter, which is then absorbed by the digestive tract. Seniors who are dehydrated may suffer from one or more vitamin deficiencies due to the lack of water in their digestive tract.
Seniors who are chronically or severely dehydrated may have a higher risk of disease. As previously mentioned, water helps to dilate blood vessels in the body, meaning it encourages them to open. It allows the blood vessels to relax and loosen so that more blood can flow through them. If a senior is dehydrated, his or her blood vessels may be constricted to the point where it restricts blood flow.
When blood flow is restricted in a senior’s body, his or her heart will have to work harder to force nutrient-rich blood to organs and tissues where it’s needed. The additional strain placed on the senior’s heart may increase his or her risk of heart disease, which currently ranks as the leading cause of death in the United States.
Dehydration can lead to lower energy levels among seniors. Among other things, water is responsible for regulating metabolism. It plays an essential role in many metabolic processes that occur in the human body, some of which manifest as energy.
If a senior is dehydrated, he or she may have excessively low energy levels. Dehydration disturbs metabolic processes that affect a senior’s energy levels. The end result is less energy and greater fatigue.
HYDRATION TIPS FOR SENIORS
Although it poses a variety of health problems in seniors, dehydration can be prevented by drinking an adequate amount of water. So, how much water should seniors drink exactly?
You’ve probably heard of the eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day rule. Unfortunately, calculating water intake is a bit more difficult since no two people have the exact same needs. As a result, seniors should consult with their physician to determine how much water they should drink daily to stay hydrated and protected against the aforementioned health problems.
Regardless, seniors should try to make a point to drink more water throughout the day so that they don’t become dehydrated. Whether bottled or tap, drinking plenty of water is the single most important thing seniors can do to protect against dehydration and its associated health problems.
Eating more fresh fruits can also hydrate seniors. Most types of fruit are comprised of 80% or more water. Therefore, eating fruit can increase a senior’s water intake. Some types of fruit can be high in sugar, so seniors should consume in moderation. Nonetheless, senior’s can lower their risk of dehydration by including fresh fruits in their diet.
Considering that 60% to 70% of the human body is comprised of water, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that hydration is essential to a senior’s health. It promotes healthy kidney function, temperature regulation, digestion, heart function and energy levels.
(“Heritage on the Marina – San Francisco Life Plan Community | Why It’s Important for Seniors to Stay Hydrated”)