Drinking to Your Independence: How Science Says Good Hydration Can Keep You Mentally Sharp After 60
What they learned centers around something that’s come naturally for most of your life – getting the right amount of fluids each day. Staying properly hydrated, it seems, has a positive effect on the nimbleness of your aging brain.
Are you a woman over 60 and living on your own? If so, researchers at Penn State University’s College of Health and Human Development have come up with findings that might help you remain independent!
Let’s look at their most important findings.
The Tale of the Two-Minute Test
Although the Penn State study included men, our focus is on the test results of its 2500 female participants, all over 60. They submitted to blood tests, provided details of what they ate or drank the previous day and submitted to a two-minute test.
After reviewing a list of 9 symbols matched with a number from 1 to 9, they were given the numbers in random order and asked to draw the correct symbol next to each from memory.
The test measured three different skills:
Processing speed is your ability to understand and react to incoming information. Sustained attention lets you to focus on an activity for a prolonged period. And working memory allows you to access stored information to complete a mental task.
And the results?
Healthy Hydration Boosts These Cognitive Skills
The women who scored lowest on the test were either under- or over-hydrated, according to the study’s lead researcher Hilary Bethancourt, Ph.D. and senior author, Professor Asher Rosinger.
“Because of this, being in the ‘sweet spot’ of hydration seems to be best for cognitive function, especially for tasks requiring sustained attention.”
“Tasks requiring sustained attention?” How about keeping a roof over your head and food on your table, managing your health care, finances and social life and doing everything else it takes to remain independent after 60?
So What’s the Hydration “Sweet Spot?
Getting to your sweet spot means consuming enough fluids to stay hydrated without going overboard. Too many fluids, Professor Rosinger warns, lead to a disruption of your electrolytes.
These minerals, including sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate, play critical roles in a wide range of your bodily functions.
For older women, Dr. Bethancourt says, staying in the sweet spot gets trickier for a number of reasons:
“As we age, our water reserves decline due to reductions in muscle mass, our kidneys become less effective at retaining water, and hormonal signals that trigger thirst and motivate water intake become blunted.”
Are You Dehydrated?
If you think you might be, a simple test can verify your suspicion.
Pinch the skin on your lower arm for three seconds. If it’s slightly slow at snapping back to normal, as per University of Florida Health, you’re mildly hydrated. You should take a drink – and plain water is best.
If your skin stays “tented” for more than a few seconds, however, you could be suffering from moderate to severe dehydration. These conditions need prompt medical attention.
Have you noticed that you don’t experience thirst as often as you used to? What steps are you taking to avoid dehydration? What beverages and foods work best for you? Let’s have a conversation!
Disclaimer: None of the information in this article is intended to be medical advice. Please consult with a doctor before making any changes to your diet.