Am I dehydrated? This is a common question we hear from many people around the community.
Summertime can be a dangerous time, especially if you’re a senior. Older adults often experience varying degrees of dehydration, which, in extreme cases, can be life-threatening. As temperatures outside rise, the risk of dehydration rises with it.
The best defense against dehydration is prevention, but understanding what hydration means and the symptoms are key factors for protecting against dehydration. Angels Care Home Health is committed to keeping its patients and the communities they serve healthy. To help prepare to “Beat the Heat” and know what actions to take, Angels Care Home Health provides the following helpful information and prevention tips:
What Does Hydration Mean?
The body needs water to survive. In fact, the body is made up of 55-60 percent water according to the Centers for Disease Control. Every cell, tissue, and organ in the body must have water to work properly. For example, the body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste, and lubricate your joints. Water is needed for overall good health. When there isn’t enough fluid in the body, it becomes dehydrated.
Physical Changes that Affect Hydration
As we age, the ability to feel thirst lessens with age so seniors may not realize when they need to drink more.
Seniors also may find they have to use the bathroom more often, so they are losing more fluid. In the elderly, body water content begins to fall and muscle mass declines. Muscle holds water, but fat does not, so as a
person ages, their body water decreases. These problems are intensified by chronic illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, and dementia. Additionally, medications that increase urination or help constipation can also cause dehydration.
Tips for Staying Hydrated:
• Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink; by this time you are already dehydrated.
• Suck on ice cubes or ice pops.
• Carry a water bottle with you and drink from it regularly.
• Drink at least eight cups of water every day.
• Drink extra in extreme heat to replace the water lost from sweating.
• Eat foods high in water content, such as fruits and vegetables.
• Do not replace water with alcohol or anything with caffeine, including coffee, tea, or colas. Caffeine may cause increased urination.
• Know the symptoms of dehydration. Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization among elderly people, according to the Cleveland Clinic partly because the symptoms of dehydration in the elderly often go unrecognized.
Symptoms of Dehydration:
• Dry mouth
• Dark yellow urine
Action: Drink water
• Feeling of blacking out when sitting up or standing
• Muscle weakness or cramps
• Sunken eyes
• Low blood pressure
• Increased heart rate
Action: Go to the ER or contact your physician right away
In addition to fluids, people can beat the heat with their fork. While about 80 percent of daily fluid intake comes from drinks, about 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food. The top three hydrating foods according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database are cucumbers, celery, and iceberg lettuce. These weigh in at 95 percent water by weight. Other foods high on the list include zucchini,
watermelon, strawberries, and cauliflower.
If someone has chronic dehydration and it is related to their lifestyle, occupation, or diet, they can work with their healthcare provider to make changes that make dehydration less likely. Most importantly, if someone has a chronic medical condition, such as congestive heart failure, it is important for them to talk with their doctor about how much fluid is needed to help prevent or minimize the risks for dehydration.
Overall, most seniors are unprepared for the health implications of Summer, specifically the changes that can occur from dehydration. Contact Angels Care Home Health about how to stay healthy this Summer, or the benefits of home health care service at 712-263-2266 or visit angelscarehealth.com.