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Reduced thirst poses dehydration risk to seniors

Family
Adult woman is sitting in park and drinking water.

As we age, our sense of thirst — that craving for a refreshing glass of water — can begin to diminish. As a result, seniors can be at a higher risk for dehydration than their younger counterparts.
“People can get dehydrated in a heartbeat,” says Dr. Ernie Gelb, an experienced family medicine and geriatrics physician who practices at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road in Myrtle Beach. “That’s especially true here in Myrtle Beach in the summertime when you’ve got such hot weather and high humidity.”
Staying hydrated is important because water plays such a critical role in nearly all bodily functions ranging from temperature regulation to kidney function and digestion. Among seniors, dehydration is a common reason for hospitalization and can cause symptoms including weakness, fainting, low blood pressure and others.
As to how much water you should drink, that depends on myriad factors such as your activity levels, environment and health. As a general rule, many people strive to consume at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

Tips

If you are struggling with diminished thirst, Dr. Gelb suggests keeping a glass of water or water bottle handy and periodically drinking from it throughout the day, making sure to refill often. Another option is to fill a half-gallon pitcher and make sure you drink the contents by the end of each day.
It’s also important to be wary of alcohol consumption, Dr. Gelb says, because it can increase dehydration risk.
If you are caring for an older adult, Dr. Gelb says, make sure to pay attention to the individual’s water intake to help avoid dehydration.
“If they live alone, have someone check on them regularly,” Dr. Gelb says. “Especially when it’s really hot and humid.”

Caution

While most people will benefit from getting at least 64 ounces of water a day, there are some cases where it may be more harmful than helpful, Dr. Gelb says. For example, people who have congestive heart failure and are on fluid restrictions should not increase their water intake and should follow their doctors’ orders for the amount of fluid they should be drinking.
If you are concerned about whether you are getting enough water each day, it’s important to speak with your doctor or other care provider. He or she can advise you on how to stay hydrated and manage diminished thirst.

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