How Age Affects our Water Balance Health

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How Age Affects our Water Balance Health

Our bodies use and lose water every day, and our ability to regulate that water balance is crucial to our existence. Water is lost through breathing; through urine and faeces excretion; and through perspiration and sweating – if we don’t replenish the water that is lost and right the balance, we would simply cease to exist, which is why it’s so important to constantly monitor how much we drink, whether it be drinking water at work – the longest stretch of our day – or topping up after hours.  Many factors, including lifestyle and the environment, affect the level of water loss, but on average (as per the Shirreffs study Markers of Hydration Status) the average sedentary adult in a mild environment will lose around 2.6 litres of water per day.

But here’s the rub: this amount increases as we grow older and our body’s natural trigger to replenish what we lose – thirst – also deteriorates with age. In a study by Doreen Gille focusing on physiological changes and optimal diet for those over 50, the importance of maintaining the correct water balance, in light of being older, is discussed:

During ageing, the decline in lean body mass is accompanied by a decrease in the water content of the organism. This decrease in water can be up to 4 L of total body water for men and 6 L for women (from the age 20 to 80) … In addition, the lack of sensation of thirst and the fact that people forget to drink due to reduced cognitive and visual functions at greater age can induce total water imbalance … A poor supply of water is associated with infections, decreased endurance, a risk of heat exhaustion, mental confusion, lassitude, muscular weakness or even death. Notably, a reduced water supply negatively influences the electrolyte balance leading to cardiovascular and hypertension disturbances as well as impaired kidney performance.

The facts that more water is lost and that the body’s natural thirst trigger deteriorates after the age of 50, are particularly pertinent when one considers the current Driving Hydration solution which is geared towards ensuring optimal hydration levels for HGV drivers – the average age of which, according to Skills for Logistics, is 53 years. While ensuring we remain properly hydrated during the day is important for everyone, it is particularly critical for those who spend many hours on the road where health and safety, along with reducing the incidence of driver errors – which, according to the Department of Transport, accounts for approximately 68% of all vehicle crashes in the UK – are of paramount importance.

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