Dehydration in seniors is common, especially when incorporating exercise and fitness programs throughout the year. Knowing the signs and prevention tips are crucial to maintaining and enjoying a healthy and fit lifestyle.
Normally dehydration occurs when the body has lost too many fluids and electrolytes, which are mineral compounds the body needs to regulate temperature and keep a healthy fluid balance. Common sense tells us the warmer weather is when you need to be most concerned, however, while you might not be sweating in the winter, cold weather constricts blood vessels to conserve heat in your core organs (oddly enough, this makes you less thirsty and can lead to you drinking less water). Dehydration may only cause small (sometimes telltale) symptoms, but it can have a large effect on the body, especially for seniors.
Severe dehydration in the elderly can be fatal and commonly leads to hospitalization. Those at the highest risk of dehydration are individuals who do not drink enough water or sweat frequently or severely. Dehydration can also be experienced as a side effect of medications such as diuretics or laxatives. It can also be caused by medical problems including diarrhea, vomiting, heat stroke, high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), infections, or excessive exercise.
Signs of Dehydration in Seniors:
- Difficulty walking
- Dizziness or headaches
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes
- Inability to sweat or produce tears
- Rapid heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Low urine output
Tips to Prevent Dehydration:
- Have an appropriate amount of fluids daily. For most people, this means more than 8 glasses of water, plus the fluids you get from your foods.
- Keep track of how much water you’re drinking. Drink water with each meal, between meals, and before, during, and after exercise.
- Check body weight regularly. Fluctuations of 2-3 lbs. per day may indicate irregular fluid intake.
- Avoid being in the hot sun for long periods of time and ensure extra hydration for longer exposure.
- Include healthy foods in your diet that have a high water content, such as broths or soups, fruit juice, soft fruits, and vegetables. Many of these foods also contain sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes that help regulate your hydration levels.
- Remember to hydrate in cold weather. Sweat evaporates quicker in cold air, and all that vapor in your breath that’s visible can lead to winter dehydration.
- Most importantly, keep a water bottle on hand and next to your bed or favorite chair, and try to drink often!
As with most illnesses, prevention is the key. Staying hydrated now is much easier than treating dehydration later. For more information about how you can stay hydrated or to schedule a free injury assessment contact your local ProActive physical therapy clinic!