Is Dehydration to Blame for Elder Frailty?

It can’t be stressed enough how crucial drinking plenty of water throughout the day is to maintain proper function but many older adults are just not getting enough fluids and are chronically dehydrated.  A recent Spanish study, published in the journal Nutrients, investigates the link between age-related dehydration and muscle function impairment and frailty.

According to a recent 4WWL News Health report, it is estimated that between 20 and 30 percent of the elderly population is dehydrated, which can lead to a greater incidence of disability, decreased muscle strength, unsteady gait, falls, respiratory infections, confusion, renal failure and medication toxicity.  When the body is not flushing prescription medications out properly through urine, drugs can build up in the system becoming toxic. Seniors with dementia are especially prone to dehydration; caregivers should offer sips of water frequently and provide plenty of water-rich foods throughout the day.

Older adults may not have the same sense of thirst younger people experience and as lean muscle mass decreases with the aging process, total body water (TBW) also declines because muscle is comprised of 76 percent water.   Maintaining muscle mass in older age through strength training and eating a healthy diet rich in lean protein helps seniors prevent loss of function and avoid falls leading to injury. 

Dehydration is also associated with greater inflammation in the body, a shrinking of cells and cell damage resulting in declining bodily function.  And although older adults may not feel thirsty, sipping unsweetened beverages like water, herbal tea or low sodium broth and eating fruits with high water content can help seniors function better and prevent illness.  

Learn more about dehydration in the elderly by following this link to the British Nutrition Foundation website.