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Senior Health Minute | Dehydration

Senior Health Minute | Dehydration

Dehydration risks for seniors

Drinking enough water is important for everyone, but especially for older adults who are at greater risk for dehydration. Older adults are more likely to become dehydrated because they naturally have less water in their bodies.

They’re also likely to have health conditions or take medicines that increase their risk of dehydration – like blood pressure medications that flush water from the body.

Symptoms of dehydration in seniors

Early dehydration symptoms in older adults often go unrecognized because many of the signs of mild dehydration could easily be caused by other health conditions or medication side effects.

Being familiar with the signs helps you take action sooner rather than later.

Mild dehydration symptoms

  • Dry mouth
  • Dark-colored urine or a very small amount of urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps in limbs
  • Headaches
  • Feeling weak or unwell
  • Being sleepy or irritable

Serious dehydration symptoms

  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty walking
  • Fast, but weak pulse
  • Bloated stomach
  • Wrinkled skin with no elasticity – try the “pinch test”
  • Dry and sunken eyes
  • Breathing faster than normal
  • Severe cramping and muscle contractions in the body
  • Convulsions

Health risks of dehydration

For seniors, being well hydrated is necessary for many medications to work properly.

Dehydration can also cause serious health problems, including:

  • Heat stroke
  • Fainting or passing out
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones and kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Blood clot complications
  • Hypovolemic shock – when low blood volume causes a drop in blood pressure and a drop in the amount of oxygen in the body

How much water do seniors need?

For the average person, a general rule of thumb for how much water to drink each day is to take one-third of the person’s body weight in pounds and drink that number of ounces of water.

Of course, if the weather is very hot or dry, they’d need to compensate by drinking more water than usual.

However, because each older adult takes different medications and has different health conditions, it’s important to talk with their doctor to find out how much water is best for their body.

Dr. Jay St. John

Dr. St. John specializes in Geriatric Medicine. He completed his residency at Methodist Health System Dallas and fellowship at UT Southwestern Medical Center and is board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.