Water allows the chemistry of life to take place. It is needed by all known forms of life. We can't live without it and hydration is one of the key factors to staying young and healthy. Without water the Earth would be a dead desert, and so would we. Water is abundantly free and yet so many of us don't drink enough of this precious nutrient.
Water is our most important nutrient, in fact, over half of the human body is made up of water (50-70%). Low levels can cause a host of problems; as you read on you will see the dangers.
Stages of Dehydration:
Dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe, based on how much of your body's fluid is lost or not replaced. Severe dehydration is a life-threatening emergency. It can cause serious damage to your kidneys, increase the risk of painful kidney stones and even cause kidney failure. It can also damage your heart, and brain. Severe dehydration can be fatal so it is important to notice all of the other warning symptoms and do something to fix them!
Dehydration doesn't just shrivel up your skin like a prune, it shrivels up your internal organs: muscles, kidneys, brain, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and heart can all suffer from the effects of dehydration.
Moderate to severe dehydration can cause tiredness, confusion, muscle cramping, blood clot complications, passing out, poor kidney function, rapid but weak pulse, little-to-no urine production, lowered blood pressure, and fast heart rate. Severe dehydration can lead to shock, weak pulse, bluish skin, very low blood pressure, lack of urine production, and in extreme cases, death.
Dehydration can also cause dry mouth when the salivary glands in your mouth don't produce enough saliva. This means you don't have enough fluid in your body to produce the saliva you need, resulting in receding gums, tooth loss, and gum disease. As long as you drink lots of water, your gums will stay hydrated, clean, and comfortable.
You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment.
Drinking Water is Not Enough:
When we become dehydrated, drinking water is not enough. During cases of mild dehydration, our body needs a drink that contains a balanced ratio of electrolytes. Electrolytes can help us rehydrate more quickly and retain fluids better.
Water has hydrogen and oxygen, but it doesn't have the electrolytes we need for the body, explains Dr. Fertel. Eating foods like bananas and apples not only help hydrate your body, but also provides the essential electrolytes that help regulate nerve and muscle function, blood flow and brain function.
Water isn't the most hydrating drink. It turns out that honor goes to milk. A 2015 study from Scotland's St. Andrews University looked at various beverages to find out exactly which one is the most hydrating, and which ones humans should skip altogether when trying to quench our thirst.
While they found water - both still and sparkling - does a great job of hydrating people, they also found that it's missing a few key ingredients to really make it work efficiently in the human body. Namely, plain water is missing just a touch of fat, salt, and sugar.
Ronald Maughan, a professor at St. Andrews' School of Medicine explained, "when we drink water it empties almost immediately from the stomach and absorbs into the bloodstream. Often, we end up just peeing out the excess liquid."
"If you're drinking water and then, within two hours, your urine output is really high and [your urine] is clear, that means the water is not staying in well," David Nieman, a professor of public health at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus, told TIME about a previous hydration study. "There's no virtue to that kind of consumption."
However, other drinks sit and absorb more slowly thanks to their nutritional content. And that's where milk comes in.
Milk's fat, protein, salt, and sugar content helps to coat the stomach when a person drinks it. This allows the water to absorb at a slower rate, thus keeping people hydrated longer. The study tells us much of what we already knew: Electrolytes - like sodium and potassium - contribute to better hydration, which is contained in milk.
The hydration study concluded Skim milk came in first followed by "oral rehydration" drinks like Pedialyte. Next came full-fat milk, fruit juice, cold tea, tea, sports drinks, still water, and sparkling water. Dehydration must be treated by replenishing the fluid level in the body.
Avoid coffee, tea, soda, and alcoholic drinks. They are diuretics, which means they can dehydrate you more because they all pull water from your body.
Dangers Of Dehydration In Seniors
Older adults are more susceptible to becoming dehydrated for various reasons, including a decreased sense of thirst. The sensation of thirst decreases with age, as does the amount of water in our bodies, which makes seniors more at risk for dehydration.
Elderly folks may have fluids nearby, but they may have trouble with their hypothalamic thirst receptors, so they don't get thirsty when they should. Add this to the fact that seniors often take dehydrating medicines (like diuretics) - and that urinary and fecal incontinence are widespread, it's not surprising that between 17 to 28% of elderly folks suffer from dehydration.
Water makes up about 55-60% of total body weight in younger adults. As we age, it declines to 50-55% and body fat increases. This lower level of body fluid, a reduced ability to conserve water and a diminished thirst sensation make seniors more susceptible to dehydration, which occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in.
That means that even when your body is craving fluids, you may be unaware of it, so you may drink less than your body requires to stay healthy.
Persistent dehydration that causes difficulty walking, confusion, rapid heart rate or other more severe symptoms can land seniors in the hospital. Severe or prolonged dehydration can lead to blood in the urine. Not drinking enough water can exacerbate any underlying kidney conditions that contributes to hematuria, such as kidney stones.
To avoid getting kidney stones, make sure you drink plenty of water every day.
Dehydration, if unaddressed, can contribute to bacterial growth, reduce metabolism, and compromise organ function in the urology system.
Medications (Diuretics), which most elderly people take are especially prone to dehydration. Researcher says that as people age, they need to drink more water to compensate for changes in their body temperature regulation.
Dehydration Is A Common Problem Among Seniors
In one study, 31% of residents in a long-term care facility were dehydrated. In a related study, 48% of older adults who were admitted to the hospital after being treated in the emergency room had signs of dehydration in their lab tests.
Drinks like coffee, sodas with caffeine, and alcohol, can have a diuretic effect, meaning they can cause you to urinate or pee more, which can then further dehydrate you.
That's not to say you can't have a morning cup of joe, but be sure to sip on either water, 100% juice or milk while you do.
How Much Water And Electrolytes Do Seniors Need?
The average senior should drink at least six to eight cups of water per day. However since water is not all you need to stay hydrated, and water (to me) is so bland, replace a couple of those glasses of water with milk, juice or drinks with Electrolytes.
If you like sports drinks, I LOVE pediolite, if you are not severely hydrated drink no more than 1-8oz glass 2 times a week. Too many electrolytes can cause several symptoms, including: Fatigue. Headaches. Weak muscles.
Dangers of Overhydration:
The skin, muscles, kidneys, brain, and heart can all suffer from the effects of dehydration. But very few understand the dangers of overhydration. Because dehydration is more common in seniors, they make special efforts to get enough H2O. (The average senior should drink at least 8 glasses per day.) However, drinking too much plain water can have terrible consequences.
When you drink too much water, you may experience water poisoning, intoxication, or a disruption of brain function. This happens when there's too much water in the cells (including brain cells), causing them to swell. When the cells in the brain swell they cause pressure in the brain. You may start experiencing things like confusion, drowsiness, and headaches. If this pressure increases it could cause conditions like hypertension (High Blood Pressure) and bradycardia (Low Heart Rate), says Web MD
Consuming too much water too quickly can overload your kidneys and cause a dilution of sodium in your bloodstream. Sodium is the electrolyte most affected by overhydration, leading to a condition called hyponatremia, where you retain water but flush out necessary electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Sodium is a crucial element that helps keep the balance of fluids in and out of cells. When its levels drop due to a high amount of water in the body, fluids get inside the cells. Then the cells swell, putting you at risk of swelling of the brain, having seizures, going into a coma, or even dying.
How To treat dehydration:
* Try sipping water or sucking on ice cubes.
* Try drinking water or sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
* Do not take salt tablets. They can cause serious complications.
* Ask your provider what you should eat if you have diarrhea.
Untreated severe dehydration may cause:
* Permanent brain damage
What To Do To Combat Dehydration:
For mild dehydration, drinking plain water may be all you need. However, if both water and electrolyte losses have occurred, electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium) should also be replaced. There are a number of flavored commercial drinks or oral rehydration solutions that have been formulated to replace the electrolytes (salts) lost during vigorous exercise or in times of illness. These drinks can be used to prevent dehydration or to treat mild dehydration.
Salt tablets are not recommended, as they can cause serious complications. If you have heart or kidney problems, consult your doctor about safely replacing fluids before exercising or during acute illness.
Include more milk. According to a study by McMaster University, milk is more hydrating than water or sports drinks due to its source of protein, carbohydrates, calcium, and electrolytes. Milk has a similar electrolyte content and carbohydrate concentration to commercial sports drinks.
Sip smoothies. Between the yogurt and all the fresh fruit, smoothies are a great, and tasty, way to stay hydrated. Not sure what fruits and vegetables to pick? Strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, spinach, applesauce, apricots, asparagus (cooked), bananas, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli (cooked), cauliflower (cooked), cherries, grapes, raspberries are all excellent options.
Drinks with a lot of electrolytes, like coconut water and eating fruits and vegetables with a lot of fiber to combat these losses.
Pedialyte or Gatorade not only contain electrolytes, which are lost through sweat and gastrointestinal losses, but are absorbed more readily within the body.
If you feel thirsty, you should try to increase your intake of hydrating fluids, like water, milk, fruit and sports drinks, and cut back on beverages that contain alcohol, coffee, and soda's as it may have a diuretic effect. They rid your body of salt (sodium) and water.
What Are The Side Effects Of Diuretics.
Usual side effects of diuretics include:
* Peeing more than usual.
* Difficulty getting an erection.
* Low potassium (unless you're taking a potassium-sparing type of diuretic).
* Muscle cramps.
Adults over the age of 60 who drink only when they are thirsty probably get only about 90% of the fluid they need.
The Harm Of Drinking Water All At Once:
If you wake up and chug a gallon of water each morning, you may be doing more harm than good. Overloading your system with water will only cause your body to eliminate any excess through your urine, taking vital electrolytes with it.
Start your day off right by drinking a glass of water each morning before breakfast. This will jump start your mind and body. Keep a bottle of water near you at all times and keep a running total of how much you've consumed - And sip throughout the day.
Drinking water gradually throughout the day is important. Too much water at one time may increase the risk of a condition of hyponatremia. As the Mayo Clinic, hyponatremia may be life-threatening.
Being hydrated is also very important for certain medications to work properly.
Aim to stay hydrated throughout the day.
For older adults, staying hydrated can take more effort. In addition to monitoring water intake, they need to ensure that they consume enough electrolytes for their body weight.
So maybe your new drinking habits will lead to a couple more trips to the bathroom. But you'll be happier, healthier, and more efficient with a properly hydrated brain.