Water as a source of Nutrition
We all know that water keeps us hydrated and alive. But we often forget that water feeds us because it carries important nutrients.
Besides its normal function of keeping us alive by facilitating the regeneration of body cells, water does so much more. Here are just some of the functions of water in the body:
- Calcium – water is one of the sources of calcium for the body.
- Calcium – water provides copper which has antioxidant properties
Magnesium – water provides magnesium which is crucial for the health of the cardiovascular system and strong bones
- Potassium – we get our potassium from water. Potassium facilitates biochemical processes like blood clotting
- Selenium – Selenium is an important nutrient for a healthy immune system. It is also an antioxidant
- Sodium – sodium helps to balance the concentration of water within and outside of the cells. We lose sodium when we sweat too much.
The human body can go for more than three weeks without food but no more than 3-4 days without water. This shows just how important water is for the health of our bodies.
The body of an adult is up to 65% water. The amount of water your body can hold varies depending on your age, fitness level, and age. Because your body holds so much water, you have to stay hydrated to function as you should.
How to Know for Sure if you are Dehydrated
Losing water happens naturally as we go through our days, but healthy individuals drink fluids and eat food that replaces the water they are losing.
When you are losing more than you are taking in, you are dehydrated and this loss of water makes it difficult for your body to function as it should.
You can become dehydrated for any of the following reasons:
- Not drinking enough water
- Frequent urination
- Kidney ailments
- Medication and its side effects
- Excess sweating
Symptoms of Hydration
- Arm or leg cramp Nausea
- Dry skin and mouth
- Low blood pressure
Lesser-Known Signs of Dehydration
- Loose skin which does not bounce back after you pinch it
- Extreme thirst
- Yellow urine or little urination
- Faster than usual heart rate
- Sunken eyes
Why Elderly are More Likely to be Dehydrated
Older people don’t feel the sensation of thirst as keenly as younger people, but their bodies are just as likely to get hydrated. This means that they are more likely to get dehydrated as evidenced by the fact that dehydration is one of the frequently occurring reasons for individuals older than 65 to be hospitalized.
Seniors just don’t feel thirsty enough and this makes them vulnerable to dehydration. This means that carers and family members have to watch out for the symptoms of dehydration as well as the causes of dehydration and make sure that the seniors in their lives stay well hydrated.
Why Preventing Dehydration in the Elderly is so Important
While it is possible to help a dehydrated senior, it is still far better to protect them from becoming dehydrated in the first place.
Whenever you suspect that an older person might be dehydrated, you must seek medical intervention immediately because a glass of water alone may not be enough to address more severe symptoms like a quickening heart rate or stomach cramps.
Because preventing dehydration in the elderly is so important, here is how we can get the older people we care about to consume more water:
- Offer water-rich foods like Juicy Fruit or Soups
- Provide a water bottle within reach
- Add fruit slices, lemon, or cucumber slices to water to make it more palatable
- See that they consume water gradually throughout the day and not all at once
- Minimize intake of alcohol or caffeine which have diuretic effects
Watch Out for Heatwaves
Seniors are more vulnerable to dehydration because their aging bodies start to lose their natural power to maintain body temperature regardless of environmental factors.
Seniors also don’t sweat as much as younger people and they, therefore, struggle to keep their body temperature cool when it is hot. This makes them vulnerable to overheating.
On hot days, seniors are in danger of being exposed to heatstrokes and heat exhaustion, both of which are an imminent risk when they are exposed to high temperatures.
How to Protect Older People from Dehydration on a Hot Day
- Provide plenty of fluids for them to drink
- Keep them out of the sun when it is at its peak. Schedule walks in the early morning or evening.
- Provide light and loose-fitting clothing in lighter colours that reflect more heat instead of absorbing it.
- Discourage energy drinks, tea, alcohol coffee, and soda among other caffeinated drinks
- Arm them with wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen to protect them from sunburn that does not allow their bodies to cool down as they should
If an older person reports weakness or dizziness when it is hot, immediately take them indoors or to a shaded area.
Immediately provide water to replace lost fluids and use a damp towel to lower their body temperature.
If the symptoms worsen or do not reflect any change in an hour, seek medical intervention.