Importance of Hydration in Older Adults

Hydration and its importance

Staying hydrated is an essential part of healthy aging, especially for those 65 and older. As we age, our risk of becoming dehydrated increases for a number of reasons. Foremost, our ability to conserve water decreases with age making it more difficult to stay properly hydrated. Older adults may also experience a diminished sense of thirst, which can be caused by age and even some medications. While dehydration might not seem like a major health concern, it can ultimately lead to poor health and medical outcomes, increased hospitalization and even premature death.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Dehydration is one of the ten most common causes of hospitalizations in older adults. While dehydration can look different for each individual, there are some common signs which can include headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, dry mouth and fatigue. Dark urine is also a common side effect of dehydration and can act as a good warning sign. If a person is getting enough water, their urine should be lighter in color. However, it’s important to note that some medications can interfere with urine color. Other common symptoms of dehydration can include decreased urination, dizziness, confusion, low blood pressure, cold hands and feet and increased heart rate.

Benefits of Drinking Water

Drinking enough water is a simple way to take charge of your health. While it can feel difficult at times, getting adequate hydration throughout the day actually has numerous health benefits such as improving cognition and reducing joint pain. Here are a few ways your body benefits from hydration:

  • Improved brain performance. According to the National Council on Aging, even mild dehydration can affect one’s memory, concentration and reaction time. Proper hydration helps stabilize your emotions and can even decrease feelings of anxiety.
  • Aids with digestion. Proper hydration can decrease the risk of constipation and ensure the digestive system is working properly. Water helps transport nutrients throughout the body and also allows waste products to leave.
  • Provides more energy. Dehydration can decrease the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain, causing your heart to work harder and ultimately making you feel more tired. By drinking more water, you’ll prevent dehydration and feel more energized throughout the day.
  • Decreased joint pain. The cartilage in our joints is actually made up of 80% water. Staying hydrated throughout the day can increase lubrication in our joints, reducing friction between the bones.
  • Regulates temperature. Our bodies store more heat when we’re dehydrated, which lowers the ability to tolerate warm temperatures. Dehydration also prevents our bodies from being able to sweat when we overheat, putting us at great risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
  • Prevents kidney stones. Kidney stones develop when mineral crystals form within the urinary tract. Kidney stones can be extremely painful to pass and can cause complications if gone unaddressed. Staying hydrated helps dilute the minerals found within the urinary tract, which helps prevent kidney stones from developing.

Tips for Staying Hydrated

Drinking water isn’t the only way to stay hydrated. In addition to consuming water, there are a number of different ways we can stay hydrated from the foods we eat. In fact, most fruits and vegetables have a high water content. Watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe and oranges are great sources of hydration and have added fiber and nutrients that also boost immune function. Eating soups and smoothies with your meals will also help you consume water in a more fun and filling way. Adding raspberries, lemons and cucumbers can make drinking water feel like a treat.

Preventing Winter Illness in Older Adults

Older adult massaging throat

Cold winter temperatures can cause an increased risk of health problems and weather-related injuries for older adults. Hypothermia, frost-bite, influenza and falls in the ice or snow can present major health concerns during the winter months. Because older adults lose body heat faster than compared to their younger years, staying warm enough during the winter can be a challenge. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults ages 65 and older are at a high risk of developing complications, such as pneumonia from the flu. Flu activity is the highest between December and February, and can last until the springtime. While the flu might seem like a nuisance for many people, it can cause serious health complications for older adults, especially for those with weakened immune systems.

Complications from Influenza

Influenza in older adults triples the risk of both heart attack and stroke within the first two weeks of infection. Pneumonia, which is an infection of the air sacs in one or both of the lungs, is characterized by severe cough, fever, chills and difficulty in breathing. Pneumonia often occurs as a complication of influenza and can cause serious health problems, including death, for older adults. If you have been ill with influenza and experience severe coughing with large amounts of mucus, trouble breathing, shortness of breath, severe chills or sweating, a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and chest pains, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Tips for Preventing Winter Illness

Get the flu and pneumonia vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise older adults to get the flu vaccine each year starting in September. The vaccine is proven to be the best way to protect against influenza and its complications. Flu vaccines are updated each season and can reduce the severity and duration of the illness. Older adults should also consider getting the pneumonia vaccine, as the illness can cause severe problems.

Practice good hygiene

Germs from your hands can enter through your nose and mouth, causing you to become ill. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water to disinfect any germs and prevent illnesses from entering your body. Use antibacterial hand sanitizer when on the go.

Wear a mask

Wearing a mask isn’t only preventative towards COVID-19. In fact, wearing a mask when in public can help prevent the spread of the flu and other wintertime illnesses. It’s also important to wear a mask when you are ill or feel an illness coming on to protect others from getting sick.

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a well-balanced diet of fruit and vegetables can help keep the immune system functioning and even reduce the risk of developing wintertime illnesses such as influenza and the common cold. Staying hydrated also helps the body fight off infections. Studies have shown that foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, peppers and broccoli can help boost the immune system and prevent illness.

Avoid touching your face

You may touch your face more often than you think! However, during the flu season it’s important to keep your hands away from your nose and mouth, as germs can enter the body and cause us to get sick.

Clean high touch surfaces

It’s important to consistently disinfect common areas in your home such as the kitchen and bathroom. Germs can multiply even in your home and increase the risk of developing influenza and other illnesses. Keep disinfecting wipes easily accessible in high touch areas and use them on doorknobs, light switches and counters.

Staying Healthy at Maple Knoll Village

We know how dangerous the flu can be for our residents at Maple Knoll. That’s why our community provides the flu vaccine and healthy meal options which support an effective and strong immune system. How are you staying healthy this winter?