Water-loss dehydration and aging

Mech Ageing Dev. 2014 Mar-Apr:136-137:50-8. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2013.11.009. Epub 2013 Dec 9.


This review defines water-loss and salt-loss dehydration. For older people serum osmolality appears the most appropriate gold standard for diagnosis of water-loss dehydration, but clear signs of early dehydration have not been developed. In older adults, lower muscle mass, reduced kidney function, physical and cognitive disabilities, blunted thirst, and polypharmacy all increase dehydration risk. Cross-sectional studies suggest a water-loss dehydration prevalence of 20-30% in this population. Water-loss dehydration is associated with higher mortality, morbidity and disability in older people, but evidence is still needed that this relationship is causal. There are a variety of ways we may be able to help older people reduce their risk of dehydration by recognising that they are not drinking enough, and being helped to drink more. Strategies to increase fluid intake in residential care homes include identifying and overcoming individual and institutional barriers to drinking, such as being worried about not reaching the toilet in time, physical inability to make or to reach drinks, and reduced social drinking and drinking pleasure. Research needs are discussed, some of which will be addressed by the FP7-funded NU-AGE (New dietary strategies addressing the specific needs of elderly population for a healthy ageing in Europe) trial.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01754012.

Keywords: Aged; Dehydration; Drinking; Osmolar concentration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dehydration / epidemiology*
  • Dehydration / physiopathology*
  • Dehydration / prevention & control
  • Dehydration / therapy
  • Diet
  • Drinking*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Prevalence
  • Reference Values
  • Risk
  • Self Care
  • Symptom Assessment
  • Water / physiology*


  • Water

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01754012