Can dehydration affect your brain function?
You know that staying hydrated is important during physical activity, whether it’s a marathon or a game of pick-up basketball.
But what about the everyday marathon of getting older?
A recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found being dehydrated may affect cognition in women over age 60. Women who were dehydrated scored lower on a test that measured motor speed, sustained attention and working memory.
Several things may contribute to dehydration among older adults.
“As we age, our thirst mechanism is not as sensitive, so we may drink less because we don’t feel thirsty,” says Dr. William Rhoades a geriatric medicine physician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
Senior citizens who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities may not have easy access to water or other liquids. They may also have physical conditions that limit their mobility. These things can affect their ability to control their own hydration.
“Many elderly patients suffer from urinary frequency or incontinence and may limit fluid intake due to the desire to limit urination,” Dr. Rhoades says.
The take-away for everyone is to develop strategies for staying hydrated, such as filling a sports water bottle that can be carried wherever you go and finished a little at a time. Dr. Rhoades says it’s just as important to drink enough during the winter when the air is dry as it is during the summer or during physical activities. He also advises patients to avoid caffeinated beverages that increase urine output without increasing hydration.
You can also stave off cognitive decline by keeping your brain busy with activities like crafting, using a computer, playing games or participating in social activities. Getting the right amount of sleep is also important for mental functions.
Remember that our bodies are mostly water — especially the brain, heart and lungs. So staying hydrated is vital for a healthy mind and body.
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About the Author
Jo Linsley, a health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist at Advocate Aurora Health. With decades of experience in writing and editing, she continues to aspire to concise and inspiring writing. She also enjoys knitting and singing as creative outlets and for their meditative qualities.