Dehydration is particularly dangerous for seniors and can lead to serious medical complications, including swelling in the brain, seizures, kidney failure, coma, and even death. As we age, the risk of dehydration is increased due to several factors:
- Some common medications are diuretics, and others cause more sweating, increasing the risk of dehydration.
- Our sense of thirst becomes less acute as we age, leading to less water intake.
- As we age, our kidneys lose some ability to conserve fluid.
Active seniors are particularly vulnerable to dehydration. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of early dehydration is important for taking steps to correct it before it worsens. These include:
- A sticky, dry mouth.
- Any feelings of thirst.
- Dry skin.
- Infrequent urination and low urine output.
Severe dehydration may produce a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, dizziness, sunken eyes, and difficult walking. These symptoms indicate an urgent need for medical intervention.
- To prevent dehydration during periods of physical activity, follow these helpful tips:
Drink early. Drink plenty of water before heading out to the gym, working in the garden, or walking around the block.
- Drink often. Keep a bottle of water handy while you’re active, and sip from it often, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Make a point to take a couple of generous sips at least every 15 minutes.
- Wear the right clothes. If you’re activity leads you outside, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible. This will keep you cooler and will also help protect you from harmful UV rays.
- Opt for a sports drink if your activity is particularly strenuous or you’re sweating a lot. Sports drinks like Gatorade help replace the electrolytes you lose through sweating.
- Know when to rest. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or fatigued, find a cool place to sit and rest until you feel better. While you’re resting, take plenty of sips of water.
Staying active promotes good health and a high quality of life as we age, but without adequate daily hydration, physical activity can turn dangerous. Make it a habit to drink water regularly throughout the day and during periods of activity to help ensure a safe, effective workout.