ASK DR. MINDY™
MINDY KIM-MILLER, MD, PhD
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Sometimes my mother does not want to drink water with her meals, and she often seems to forget to drink during the day. How important is it for her to drink more water, and how do I get her to do it?
–Victoria, 47, Chicago
Drinking enough fluids every day is very important for good health. Not getting enough fluids can increase one’s risk for complications such as dehydration and constipation.
Elderly people are more prone to dehydration. They have less water content in their bodies (about 60% as opposed to 70% in younger adults), a lowered thirst response, and the kidneys concentrate urine less well with aging. Swallowing problems, poor food intake, and long periods between drinking fluids can increase the risk of dehydration. Some elderly may also be taking medications (such as diuretics or laxatives) that increase fluid loss. Dehydration can have serious medical complications including kidney and heart problems. When dehydration is mild, the skin and insides of the mouth, nose, and eyelids become dry. Persons with dementia may act more confused and sluggish if they are dehydrated. Standing up may make them feel light-headed and they may faint. As dehydration becomes more severe, the body makes less urine, and the urine becomes dark. Severe dehydration can lead to low blood pressure that can be life-threatening. It is very important to maintain a safe level of hydration.
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