Nutrition

Senior Nutrition: Hydration and Healthy Aging

Senior Nutrition: Hydration on the Effects of Aging

Dehydration is the depletion in total body water content due to fluid losses, lack of fluid intake or both. The following article has suggestions for seniors and those that they are caring for by themselves or with the help of caregiver-aides. According to studies done by European Danone Research, there are several reasons for dehydration of the elderly:

1. Lean muscle mass and water storage decreases with age: With this comes an increase in body fat- a tissue that doesn’t hold water. Four to six liters of body water can be lost between ages of 20 and 80 (Gile, 2010). Therefore even smaller losses of water can result in dehydration.

2. The Sensation of Thirst Becomes Dulled: Those mechanisms necessary for blood pressure regulation become less sensitive with age. In addition, neurotransmitters involved in thirst sensation are reduced impairing the regulation of fluid intake.

3. Kidney Function is Impaired: as we age renal water conservation is impaired. Aged kidneys are not able to concentrate urine as well and less water as well. Impaired sodium regulation also occurs also reduces the body to maintain water regulation in the body.

4. Other Risk Factors: With aging comes problems with the throat resulting in swallowing and speaking difficulties. There may be comprehension and communication problems with care givers as well. Dehydration can be caused by too warm rooms. Care givers may forget to give water, etc. Plus some people rather have coffee or sugary pop drinks resulting in more dehydration. Prescription drugs such as diuretics and laxatives can also cause poor water intake.

Prevention of Dehydration and the Need for Greater Monitoring

Fluid Recommendations: In the US, the National Academy of Science suggests 3.7 L (1 gal) for men and 2.5 L (.62 gal) for women daily. The European Food Safety Authority has set a reference value of 2.5 L (.62 gal) for elderly men and 2 L (.50 gal) for women (1 gal = 1 oz). It is doubtful that these recommendations are followed. A 2009 study showed that 63% of those between the ages of 65-74 did not meet the recommendations. And at age 85, the number of those not meeting the recommendation rose to 81%!

This constant state of dehydration has caused increased mortality rates among the hospitalized elderly (Mentes,2006). Those hospitalized for dehydration the mortality rate was 50%. Even when not hospitalized for dehydration, resulting lack of fluids increases the 12 monthly mortality risk by 16-78%. It was also found that dehydration can increase the risk of repeated hospitalizations.

Dehydration complicates aging with impaired cognitive function and more falls. Supplements such as Advocare Rehydrate, Gatoraide and Cytomax cannot be used because of complications from conditions such Congestive Heart Failure. Sodium and Potassium levels must also be monitored more closely in the elderly as well.

Conclusion

Water is often a forgotten nutrient. It is an important part of the diet and without proper hydration can result in more difficult and uncomfortable aging process. For active seniors it is a given that water is a must. However, it is sometimes overlooked by the older population and their caregivers. One cannot overemphasize the importance of water intake on a daily basis.

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