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You Might Be Experiencing Dehydration – and Why That’s Risky

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By American Specialty Health on April 30, 2021
You Might Be Experiencing Dehydration – and Why That’s Risky

Dehydration becomes likelier as you age, and its effect on your health can be serious.

When you become dehydrated it means you’re losing more fluids than you’re taking in. This tends to happen more often in older adults, and it can have serious consequences.

It can cause weakness and dizziness, which can impact your balance and raise your risk for falls. It can cause confusion. It can cause your blood pressure to drop. And over the long term, dehydration can harm your kidneys, affect how well your medicines work, and even raise your risk of heart attack and death.

Dehydration is a common reason older adults are hospitalized.

Why is dehydration more common in older adults?

Here are a few reasons why dehydration tends to be more common in older adults:

  • A decrease in thirst. As you age, your sense of thirst will tend to weaken. Since thirst is what triggers you to drink, a lack of thirst can lead to a drop in fluid intake. It can also trick you into thinking you don’t need to drink as many fluids as you really do.
  • Medications. Some drugs, including some diuretics and blood pressure medicines, can cause a loss of fluids.
  • Mobility challenges. If it is difficult for you to get around, you may be less likely to get up for glasses of water, even if you’re thirsty.
  • Kidney problems. As you age, your kidneys may not retain fluids as well. This may cause you to be at higher risk for dehydration.

How much water do you need to drink a day?

You may have heard the age-old advice to drink 8 glasses of water a day. That’s no longer the one-size-fits-all rule of thumb. Everyone’s fluid needs differ, depending on age, activity level, climate, physical size, and certain health conditions.

If you eat a lot of water-filled foods, like soup and juicy fruits and vegetables, you may not need to drink as much water. If you exercise hard, live in a hot climate, or live at a high altitude, you may need to drink more. Or, if you have certain health conditions, your doctor may suggest you drink more—or less.

Some guidelines suggest that women need about 11.5 cups of fluid each day, and men need about 15.5 cups a day. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that total volume is not just water, but fluids from foods and other drinks, too. In fact, some research suggests that drinking both water and other kinds of fluids may be best when it comes to staying hydrated.

Your best bet is to ask your doctor how much to drink if you’re not sure how much you need.

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This information is not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Please check with your doctor before using this information or beginning any self-care program.



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This article was written by Nora Byrne; edited by Candace Hodges; and, clinically reviewed by

Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RDN.


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