Benefits of Drinking Water: Hydration in Older Adults
As temperatures here in the UK begin to soar, staying hydrated is more important than ever. Whether you are aged 5, 30, or 90, drinking enough is key to staying healthy and keeping your body functioning at its full potential.
Hydration in older adults
As we age it can become more difficult to stay hydrated due to age-related changes within the body; this can be further complicated by certain diseases or health conditions, along with physical frailty or cognitive changes (such as dementia).
Drinking enough, or encouraging an older person to do so can be difficult at times, but the numerous health benefits are well worth the effort. Below we have outlined 8 reasons why staying hydrated is particularly important for older adults.
Studies have shown that water keeps us physically healthy and also mentally healthy. When a person is mildly dehydrated it can affect mood, memory and their thinking processes. As these can already be affected by age, older people need to ensure that they drink enough to stay mentally healthy and cognitively sharp.
Digestion and constipation
Water aids with digestion at every stage of the process, helping to make the nutrients and minerals available to your body. From the saliva in your mouth to your blood and lymph that transport the nutrients around the body; water helps the good stuff get where it is most needed and helps the waste products leave.
Which leads us nicely onto the next point below.
Most people will have been constipated at some point during their lives and will remember how uncomfortable it can be. The condition is more common in older adults with nearly two-thirds of people over the age of 65 experiencing constipation, according to experts. One of the ways that constipation can be relieved is by drinking plenty; water helps to soften the stool, making it more comfortable and easier to pass.
Lubrication of joints
Synovial fluid is the liquid that helps to keep the joints flexible and moving smoothly. It is mostly made up of water, so if a person becomes dehydrated, movement can become stiffer and more painful. It is therefore essential that anyone with mobility difficulties or conditions such as arthritis ensures that they are drinking enough.
Normalising blood pressure & regulation of body temperature
Water helps with fluid balance and keeps things running in harmony; blood pressure is a good example of this. If you are dehydrated and have not taken on enough fluids, your blood pressure will drop. This can make you feel weak and dizzy, make your vision blurry and put you at higher risk of fainting or falling. For an older person, drinking enough will help to stabilise blood pressure, therefore helping to decrease their risk of falls.
Another part that hydration plays by balancing bodily fluids, is in regulating our body temperature. When the weather is hot or we have been exercising, we begin to sweat. As the sweat on your skin begins to evaporate you feel cooler as a result and body temperature decreases. Of course, by sweating you are losing fluid from the body, which is why we need to replace it and drink enough on warmer days.
Older adults are at an increased risk of heat stroke, which can occur even when indoors. They may have a reduced ability to regulate heat due to certain medications, medical conditions or dehydration. The body temperature rises so much that the person could become unconscious, and organs may start shutting down. Heat stroke can be fatal. The main ways to avoid heatstroke are by staying hydrated and keeping cool by using fans and wearing loose-fitting clothing.
As we’ve already said, water helps to digest and distribute the nutrients we need around our body. This keeps our immune system strong, which increases our ability to fight off illnesses. Drinking enough also helps prevent specific illnesses, such as Urinary Tract Infections. Older people are at an increased risk of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), and by drinking enough, they can reduce their risk by flushing any bacteria that may sit in the bladder or the urethra (the tube that urine comes out through), out of the body.
Skin is the largest organ in the body, and it relies on adequate hydration to keep its elasticity and to help it stay healthy. Healthy skin is important in older adults and those who are less mobile, due to illness or disability. As we age, skin becomes thinner and can lead to breakdowns, such as skin tears or wounds such as pressure sores. People with reduced mobility are at a high risk of this, so along with regular repositioning, staying hydrated is crucial.
Hydration is also critical in wound healing. If someone has a pressure sore, skin tear, cut or graze, by drinking enough they will be assisting in the healing process, as it helps blood, nutrients and oxygen to reach the wound.
As you can see from the points above, there are a whole host of benefits of drinking water and keeping yourself hydrated. If you, or a family member, struggle to drink enough fluids during the day, you can also look at eating foods with a high water content. Jellies, salad vegetables (such as lettuce and cucumber), and most fruits are great options.
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