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Lifestyle ... For Good Health

Benefits of good hydration for Seniors and aging adults

borrowed from Water UK / Wise Up On Water  (their complete document)

Some of the medical evidence for the benefits of good hydration in older people is summarised below. 

  • Pressure ulcers: Poorly hydrated individuals are twice as likely to develop pressure ulcers because dehydration reduces the padding over bony points. Fluid intake to correct impaired hydration, increases levels of tissue oxygen and enhances ulcer healing.
  • Constipation: Inadequate fluid intake is one of the most frequent causes of chronic constipation. It is more frequent in incapacitated or institutionalised older people, affecting some 42 per cent of patients admitted to geriatric wards. In individuals who are not adequately hydrated, drinking more water can increase stool frequency and enhance the beneficial effect of daily dietary fibre intake.
  • Urinary infections and continence: Water helps maintain a healthy urinary tract and kidneys. Maintaining adequate hydration levels, rather than high fluid intake, per se, is important in the prevention of urinary tract infection. Many older people are loath to drink during the evening to eliminate the need to go to the toilet during the night. Evidence shows, however, that the restriction of overall fluid intake does not reduce urinary incontinence frequency or severity.
  • Kidney and gallstones: Good hydration can reduce the risk of kidney stone formation by 39 per cent because dilute urine helps to prevent crystallization of stone-forming salts. Consumption of water at regular intervals can also help by diluting bile and stimulating gallbladder emptying, which in turn helps to prevent gallstone formation.
  • Heart disease: Adequate hydration reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 46 per cent in men and 59 per cent in women. It also protects against blood clot formation by decreasing blood viscosity.
  • Low blood pressure: Many older people suffer a drop in blood pressure on standing, which sometimes causes them to pass out. Drinking a glass of water five minutes before standing helps stabilise blood pressure, and prevents fainting.
  • Diabetes: Water is an essential part of the dietary management of diabetes since dehydration can worsen diabetic control. In poorly controlled diabetic individuals, high urine output can increase the risk of dehydration.Good hydration levels also help to slow down the development of diabetic ketoacidosis during insulin deficiency in Type 1 diabetes, and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Cognitive impairment: Dehydration adversely affects mental performance. Symptoms of mild dehydration include light-headedness, dizziness, headaches and tiredness, as well as reduced alertness and ability to concentrate. Once thirst is felt (0.8-2 per cent dehydration ), mental function may be affected by as much as 10 per cent. Mental performance deteriorates progressively as the degree of dehydration increases. In older people this impacts on cognitive function leading to increasing frailty, functional decline, and a reduction in the quality of life.
  • Falls: The risk of falls increases with age and in older people this can result in injury and fractures. A broken hip, for example, can lead to a reduced quality of life, over and above the trauma and hurt. Such individuals rarely get back to the same degree of independent living as they enjoyed before they fell. Dehydration has been identified as one of the risk factors for falls in older people, since it can lead to a deterioration in mental state, and increase the risk of dizziness and fainting. The maintenance of adequate levels of hydration in older people could be effective in preventing falls, particularly as part of a multifactoral falls prevention strategy. In addition, in hard water areas, tap water provides a significant proportion of dietary calcium, which is essential for good bone mineral density and the prevention of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Hospitalisation in older people: Dehydration has been shown to increase by two-fold the mortality of patients admitted to hospital with stroke. It also increases the length of hospital stay for patients with community-acquired pneumonia.
  • Skin: Being well hydrated is a good way to keep skin healthy and young-looking. The skin acts as a water reservoir and participates in fluid regulation for the whole body. Mild dehydration causes skin to appear flushed, dry and loose, with a loss of elasticity, which makes it look older than it is. The effects of dehydration on the skin are more noticeable on the face, than on the lower limbs.

New Years resolutions for better senior health

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