It is well known that water is an essential component of life, but did you know its importance in minimizing your risk of falls?
Dehydration: What is it? How does it occur?
Sometimes we simply forget to drink enough water throughout the day to meet our body’s needs, and if we’re missing enough, this can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can also occur for a variety of reasons, such as bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, heat and sweating, and medications (1). This is when the body then resorts to its water stores, such as the water that is mixed into our blood or the water stored within our skin, in attempts to maintain proper bodily functions (2). When the body steals the water from your blood to bring it to other parts of your body that are in need, you now have less blood that is circulating within your body. If the loss of water in your blood is significant enough, it can cause a drop in your blood pressure (2).
How does dehydration lead to falls?
Have you ever gotten up very quickly after spending a long period of time laying down or sitting and felt dizzy for a few seconds? That’s because you may have gotten up so quickly that your blood got pulled down towards your legs because of gravity and there wasn’t enough going to your brain (3). If the brain does not get enough blood, it may lack oxygen for a brief moment, leading you to feeling lightheaded, dizzy and have blurred vision (2). This is called orthostatic hypotension. This can also be caused by a drop in blood pressure which can result from dehydration. Now imagine what can happen in those few seconds to minutes when you are feeling dizzy. Orthostatic hypotension greatly increases one’s risk of a fall (4). It is therefore imperative that you stay well hydrated to decrease your chance of falling and potentially injuring yourself.
It is important that you should be reminding yourself to drink water. With age and with some medications, your body becomes less sensitive to its need for water and you may be dehydrated without even feeling thirsty (5). Thus, by the time you are feeling thirsty, you may already be dehydrated; so basing your water intake on your levels of thirst may not suffice. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men and women over the age of 50 should be consuming about 3 liters (13 cups) and 2.2 liters (9 cups) of water per day, respectively (6). Think of some tricks that may help you remember to drink enough water. Have a glass of water by your side so it is easily accessible, set a timer every hour to drink a cup of water or take a few sips during commercials while watching television. Remember, water is essential for a healthier and safer you! Lastly, if you have been given directives to limit your water intake from a doctor, please respect those recommendations.
(1): El-Sharkawy, A. M., Sahota, O., & Lobo, D. N. (2015). Acute and chronic effects of hydration status on health. Nutrition Reviews, 73(Suppl 2), 97-109. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv038
(2): Water and hydration: Physiological basis in adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.hydrationforhealth.com/en/hydration-science/hydration-lab/water-and-hydration-physiological-basis-adults/
(3): Thompson, A., & Shea, M. (2020, September). Dizziness or Light-Headedness When Standing Up - Heart and Blood Vessel Disorders. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/heart-and-blood-vessel-disorders/symptoms-of-heart-and-blood-vessel-disorders/dizziness-or-light-headedness-when-standing-up
(4): Juraschek, S. P., Daya, N., Appel, L. J., Miller, E. R., Windham, B. G., Pompeii, L., . . . Selvin, E. (2016). Orthostatic Hypotension in Middle-Age and Risk of Falls. American Journal of Hypertension, 30(2), 188-195. doi:10.1093/ajh/hpw108
(5): Lavizzo-Mourey RJ. Dehydration in the elderly: a short review. J Natl Med Assoc. 1987 Oct;79(10):1033-8.
(6): Institute of Medicine 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10925.