Do I Need to Drink Water?

By September 4, 2014Aging in Place

PT Sue LogoApproximately 60% of your body weight is water. All of your cells, organs, and tissues use water in order to perform all the bodily functions and to regulate your body temperature. Water keeps all of your tissues, including your bones, blood, and brain, moist; lubricates your joints; and protects your spinal cord by providing a buffer. The kidneys, liver, and intestines need water to flush out waste material.

You lose water naturally by breathing, sweating, and digestion. Dehydration is the condition of severe water loss with loss of essential salts and minerals. In simple words, your body has lost more fluid than you are taking in and your body does not have enough water and fluids to function properly.

All people are susceptible to dehydration but especially older people. You need to monitor your fluid intake to balance fluid loss during hot weather, illness, exercise, and/or excessive sweating. Many older people avoid drinking fluids for a variety of reasons. If repeated urination during the night is a problem, stop drinking water by 5 PM but increase your water intake during the earlier part of the day. Avoiding water intake really becomes a problem when you get sick. As the body ages, its ability to conserve water is reduced, thirst becomes less acute, and responsiveness to temperature changes lessen. Some chronic illnesses may put you at a higher risk to dehydrate, such as diabetes, kidney disease, alcoholism, and adrenal gland disorders. Some of the serious complications of dehydration include: heat injury, cerebral edema, seizures, low blood volume shock, kidney failure, and in severe cases, coma and death.

Some of the symptoms of dehydration include: dry, sticky mouth; sleepiness or tiredness; thirst; decreased urine output (no urination in 8 hours for an older person); dry skin; headaches; constipation; and dizziness or lightheadedness. In severe dehydration the symptoms worsen and can include: rapid heartbeat; rapid breathing; lack of sweating; and extreme fussiness, irritability, confusion and/or sleepiness in the older adult. Dehydration can occur in 24 hours and can become serious in 48 to 72 hours if enough fluid is lost. Severe diarrhea, as in viral gastroenteritis, can especially lead to dehydration even if there is no vomiting or fever present. If the dehydration becomes advanced, conservative measures may not work and you may need to go to the hospital for IV fluids. The loss of the salts and minerals in the loss fluids is very important since the body needs those salts and minerals to function.

The best treatment is to prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids (water and other beverages) and eating foods that are high in water, such as fruits and vegetables. The amount of water that you need depends upon the climate where you live, your level of physical activity, and your medical health. The official recommendation for adequate hydration is 8 8oz. glasses of water a day. Please check with your doctor for his recommendation specific for your body needs.

If you are ill, start pushing fluids as soon as diarrhea, vomiting and/or fever are detected. Use water or a rehydration solution such as Gatorade or PowerAde. Chicken broth, even diluted with water 50%, is excellent. Avoid fruit juices, carbonated drinks and coffee which can make the diarrhea worse. Carbonated sodas have too much sugar and too little sodium to replenish lost electrolytes. If the symptoms continue for 8 to 12 hours and especially if you are unable to keep anything down (even water produces vomiting), you or a love one should contact your physician, his nurse or nurse practitioner for advice. Be sure and give your physician all the pertinent, concise details so that he can accurately treat you before you get into trouble with dehydration.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at my web site,, my office (951)369-6507, or my email address, My goal is to help seniors keep healthy and moving. I welcome all questions or comments. This article is dedicated to a senior friend, Martha, who lives in assisted care and was recently hospitalized due to dehydration.

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