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Dehydration and Poor Cognition

Water makes up 60 to 70 percent of our body weight. But, shockingly, up to 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated—especially seniors.

Typical signs of dehydration include having a dry mouth, producing less or dark-colored urine, feeling fatigued, tired, dizzy, faint, or lightheaded, rapid heart rate or suffering from muscle cramps.

Studies show that you only need to be 1% dehydrated to experience a 5% decrease in cognitive function. A 2% decrease in brain hydration can result in short term memory loss and have trouble with math computations. Prolonged dehydration causes brain cells to shrink in size and mass, a condition common in many elderly who have been dehydrated for years.

There are many debilitating symptoms that come hand in hand with dehydration and it's important that you are able to recognise the tell tail signs so that treatment can be given straight away.

Thirst isn't always a reliable indicator that your body is dehydrated.

Mental symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • Depression

  • Afternoon fatigue

  • Sleep issues

  • Focus and concentration worsen

  • Short-term and working memory decline

  • Lack of mental clarity, sometimes referred to as “brain fog.”

  • Hallucinations

Since the brain cannot store water and you are constantly losing water through perspiration and other body functions, it's essential that you continuously hydrate. You'll be able to think faster, focus more clearly and experience greater clarity when your brain is functioning on a full reserve of water

Dehydration can be incredibly dangerous, particularly in the elderly.

There are a number of serious negative health effects resulting from dehydration including:


In extreme cases, dehydration can also lead to seizures. This occurs in patients that lose more than 10 percent of their body weight in fluid.

Kidney problems

If you experience repeated bouts of dehydration, this can cause a number of kidney issues including kidney failure, kidney stones or kidney infections. loss of consciousness.

How to Prevent Dehydration and How Much Is Enough?

To prevent dehydration, you should always ensure that you drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables, especially if you live in a hot climate. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to consume at least 6 to 8 cups of water each day, and more if you are participating in vigorous exercise.

No doubt you've heard that the typical recommendation for daily water and fluid needs is 64 ounces—or eight glasses—daily.

But, there's more to the story...

The Importance of Water and Electrolytes

Of course, our bodies also need electrolytes. These are key minerals—like sodium, potassium, and magnesium—that regulate multiple functions, including our heartbeat, blood pressure, fluid balance, and muscle contractions.And yes, dehydration can lead to an electrolyte imbalance.

So, in addition to staying properly hydrated through plain water, be sure to focus on those key minerals as well. The good news is, eating fruits and veggies can help you avoid an electrolyte imbalance, while also keeping you hydrated.

After all, for most folks, around 20 percent of their daily water intake comes from foods. So, here are ten options with the highest water content:

  1. Cucumbers: 96 percent water

  2. Tomatoes: 95 percent water

  3. Spinach: 93 percent water

  4. Watermelon: 92 percent water

  5. Mushrooms: 92 percent water

  6. Cantaloupe and honeydew melon: 91 percent water

  7. Broccoli: 90 percent water

  8. Peaches: 88 percent water

  9. Brussels Sprouts: 86 percent water

  10. Coconut water

The Bottom Line

We all lose water daily through sweat, bathroom breaks, and more. And it can be easy to let your fluid intake fall by the wayside, especially if you keep busy.

Three Good Tips to Increase Hydration 

Tip #1: Simply do it and Increase your water intake.

Tip #2: Add some flavor.If you're looking for some flavor, go ahead and enjoy some herbal tea and flavored seltzers. 

Tip #3: Keep track.Keeping a daily log on paper or a wearable device, such as a Fitbit, can help make proper hydration a habit.

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