Drink Water for Healthy Aging: Inadequate Hydration Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia and Delirium in the Elderly


Drinking water may seem like a simple daily task, but for the elderly, it is a critical factor in maintaining health. During cold weather, seniors often reduce their water intake due to decreased sensation of thirst. However, insufficient hydration in older individuals poses risks of cognitive decline, delirium, and an increased susceptibility to urinary tract infections.

Encouraging elderly parents to stay hydrated is a daily priority for Yang Yating, daughter of former Health Minister Yang Chih-liang. Recognizing the potential link between hydration and dementia prevention, she emphasizes the importance of water intake, especially since seniors may not be as active in their retirement.

According to Yating, the brain, being comparable to tofu, suffers when dehydrated, affecting mental clarity and increasing the risk of neurological diseases. She ensures that her father drinks at least 1,500cc of water daily.

Is dehydration in the elderly linked to severe consequences such as dementia?

Dr. Lai Te-jen, Director of the De Ren Clinic in Taichung and attending physician in the Department of Psychiatry at Chung Shan Medical University Hospital, explains that inadequate hydration thickens the blood, contributing to conditions like vascular dementia and vascular depression. He emphasizes the crucial role of sufficient water intake for the elderly and underscores the need for hydration to prevent delirium in those already affected by dementia.

Dr. Yang Ching-wei, attending physician in the Department of Urology at Cheng Ching Hospital, adds that dehydration can impact various organs, including the brain, heart, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, and urinary tract. Insufficient water intake, especially for the elderly, can lead to urinary tract infections and even progress to sepsis due to weakened immune systems.

Normalizing hydration not only affects cognitive function but also prevents various diseases and complications. Dr. Lai explains that maintaining proper hydration is crucial for kidney function and toxin elimination. Dehydration can lead to electrolyte imbalances, uremia, and deteriorating kidney function.

Insufficient water intake also contributes to urinary tract stones, according to Dr. Yang. Dehydration increases the concentration of crystals in urine, leading to the formation of kidney stones. Adequate water intake not only reduces the risk of urinary stones but also benefits bowel movements, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cardiovascular health.

Encouraging the elderly to drink more water can be challenging, as they may resist, saying, "I've already had enough water!" or questioning, "Why should I drink water if I'm not thirsty?" To address this, Yating suggests quantifying water intake, recording each instance to present the data to the elderly individuals and emphasize the importance of staying hydrated, even before feeling thirsty.


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