Dehydration in the elderly

Do the elderly become less sensitive to the sense of thirst?

Pawel Malczewski
facebook twitter google pinterest CONFIRMED
 

Short summary

Sensitivity to thirst is reduced in the elderly as the receptors responsible for thirst regulation become defective with age. For a quick answer click here.

Explanation

Some research shows that the elderly drink less water (including more palatable beverages) after a period of water abstinence. Drinking less water is a result of diminished sense of thirst. (1)Phillips PA, Rolls BJ, Ledingham JG, Forsling ML, Morton JJ, Crowe MJ, Wollner L. Reduced thirst after water deprivation in healthy elderly men. N Engl J Med. 1984;311:753–759. Available here. (2)Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, Hydration and Health. Available here.

In the elderly, the receptors (osmoreceptors, baroreceptors and opioid receptors) responsible for the regulation of thirst are not as effective as in young people. With age these receptors may become defective or undergo some changes resulting in a decrease in thirst response. (3)Stachenfeld NS, DiPietro L, Nadel ER, Mack GW. Mechanism of attenuated thirst in aging: role of central volume receptors. Am J Physiol. 1997 Jan;272(1 Pt 2):R148-57. Available here.

Common symptoms of dehydration in increasing order of severity are: increased thirst, vague discomfort, decreased appetite, dry mouth, loss of concentration, headaches, sleepiness, tingling sensation and numbness of hands and feet and possibility of collapse.

Conclusion

Back to top

It is, therefore, advisable to get the elderly to learn to drink water regularly even if they are not thirsty, in order to avoid dehydration. (4)Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, Hydration and Health. Available here.

References   [ + ]

1. Phillips PA, Rolls BJ, Ledingham JG, Forsling ML, Morton JJ, Crowe MJ, Wollner L. Reduced thirst after water deprivation in healthy elderly men. N Engl J Med. 1984;311:753–759. Available here.
2. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, Hydration and Health. Available here.
3. Stachenfeld NS, DiPietro L, Nadel ER, Mack GW. Mechanism of attenuated thirst in aging: role of central volume receptors. Am J Physiol. 1997 Jan;272(1 Pt 2):R148-57. Available here.
4. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, Hydration and Health. Available here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *