Red Flag Warning For Seniors: Dehydration

“Save some for me.”

by Bob Warnagieris
[email protected]

We have all heard before – drink more water. It’s drummed into our heads by health experts, warnings in the media, and physical fitness advocates. Yet, daily, especially during the record heat days of this summer, we learn of people of all ages and stature being struck with hospitalization and death because of dehydration. However, it is seniors that are most at risk.

Older adult bodies don’t register temperature as efficiently as those of younger people. As temperatures rise our body’s primary means of reducing heat is through sweating. The heart has to work extra hard to bring our blood to the surface for this to occur. Other organs as well are seriously affected by rising heat in our bodies.

During the current heat wave, the media has been filled with stories of those who have not heeded these warnings. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel was recently hospitalized because of dehydration which occurred as a result of a tour in the desert climate of Israel. The stories seem endless. In the USA two young women died while hiking on a hot day. A whole family was lost this summer because of heat prostration. An experienced hiker, age 75, perished in the desert near Death Valley. Outdoor workers are collapsing daily because of inadequate hydration.

In my own case, I am in excellent physical condition for my age of 88. The heat has never bothered me as it does most people, and I consume daily what I thought was enough water. However, after two hours of golf in the middle of July, where I walked the course on an especially hot day, I later became dehydrated. Yes, I carried water, but clearly did not consume enough. That, added to a diuretic taken that morning compounded my risk. I did not discover this until the following morning when I had a blood test and learned that I had suffered a deficiency in my kidney function.

We get fluids from many sources. That includes beverages, fruits, vegetables, soups and the like. However, the best source is pure water. It can be made more appealing with a squeeze of lemon, strawberries or maybe cucumber, but it’s still basically water. A general rule for the amount of water we need is 1/3 of your body weight per day. Another measure for older adults is 7.1 cups per day. This is where the often-repeated recommendation of 8 glasses day comes from. We are all different in age, physical fitness and body chemistry, so confer with you doctor as to what is best for you.

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