Drinking water isn’t just necessary to quench a powerful thirst. Water performs a number of important functions in the body including flushing out bodily toxins, keeping blood pumping throughout our bodies, and ensuring that blood gets pumped to our hearts. Beyond the more obvious health benefits of staying hydrated, researchers believe that there is also a strong correlation between hydration and cognitive function too. Here’s a look at the link between dehydration and brain health and how you can stay hydrated.
Dehydration and Older Adults
Staying hydrated means that your body has enough fluids for muscles, cells, and organs to perform properly. Unfortunately, some studies show that older adults, possibly up to 40%, are more likely to be chronically dehydrated. There are a number of reasons why this might occur in seniors. Certain medications can increase the risk of dehydration and thirst and appetite often diminish naturally as people age. In addition, older adults experience body composition changes over time that can reduce the amount of fluid within the body. Seniors may also not be able to effectively regulate body temperature, making them more susceptible to dehydration during hot conditions or with physical activity.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Even mild dehydration in older adults can cause debilitating symptoms. In addition to lethargy, people who are dehydrated suffer from symptoms such as brain fog and fatigue. Here are some additional symptoms:
- Headaches and dizziness.
- Feeling tired and sluggish.
- Irritability and crankiness.
- Infrequent urination or dark-colored urine.
- Muscle cramps, achiness, or weakness in limbs.
- Dry mouth.
- Cognitive impairment or decreased cognitive function.
Hydration and Brain Health
Since our bodies are roughly 60% water, it makes sense that a lack of fluids would lead to cognitive impairment. This is especially true with older adults. Multiple studies demonstrate that brains in dehydrated adults appear to have increased neuronal activation during these periods, meaning that their brains are working harder than normal to complete otherwise normal tasks. While younger people might manifest the effects of dehydration as crankiness or moodiness, the older adult population is more likely to suffer from a decline in cognitive performance when improperly hydrated. Additional research suggests that lackluster hydration can result in major impairments in motor coordination, executive function, and attention span.
How to Stay Adequately Hydrated
In addition to drinking plenty of water, nutrition and exercise play a key role in staying hydrated. Fluids come not just from the water out of the tap, but much of it comes from the fruits and vegetables we consume. Staying active can also help adults stay off of medications that can lead to dehydration. Here are some additional pointers for staying hydrated:
- Experiment with different beverages. Try flavored waters, gatorade, or even tea if drinking plain water doesn’t keep you interested.
- Try water at different temperatures. Some people prefer to drink ice water while some like it at room temperature, so find the temperature that will make you more likely to drink.
- Frozen popsicles or sorbet are flavorful and contain fluids. Even protein shakes or fruit smoothies contain a beneficial amount of water.
- Keep water easily accessible at your fingertips. The easier it is to access, the more likely you will be to consume it.
- Broths and soups work wonders. Hot, savory liquids are flavorful and may be more palatable to some people. They also contain plenty of fluid to help you stay hydrated.
- Avoid foods and drinks that zap fluids. Consuming things like excess salt, caffeine or alcohol can lead to dehydration.
Lighthouse Senior Living is designed to offer residents delicious and nutritious meals combined with activities that foster a healthy lifestyle. Contact us to schedule a virtual or in-person tour of our communities, located in Columbia-Ellicott City and Essex-Middle River.