One of the cause of headaches and other physiological issues is dehydration. With this logic, could cognitive function be affected?

Headaches, lethargy, dizziness and many other issues are caused by dehydration. But according to experts, the elderly are more prone to dehydration.

“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,” explains Hilary Bethancourt, Ph.D., from the Pennsylvania State University College of Health and Human Development in State College.

The risk is high for the elderly for cognitive impairment. Bethancourt and her colleagues set out a new study to answer this question. The European Journal of Nutrition shows the results of this new study.

“We felt like it was particularly important to look at cognitive performance in relation to hydration status and water intake among older adults, who may be underhydrated on a regular basis,” says Bethancourt, the study’s first author.


Under and overhydration are both nonideal

Researchers analysed the data in their study having 2,506 individuals, consisting 1,271 women and 1,235 men all aged 60 and over. The data is dated from 2011-2014 collected by the Nutrition and Health Examination Survey.

Blood samples were collected from all the participants involved in the study. Information about what they consume throughout the day was provided.

The investigators observed the concentration of different substances to measure each participant’s hydration levels like sodium, potassium, glucose and urea nitrogen in their blood.

Cognitive function tests were carried out by the participants, from verbal recall and fluency to exercises that tested attention levels and working memory.

The link between proper hydration and good scores in cognitive function tests was revealed to the researchers nearly immediately. The results became less obvious however, when the researchers adjusted their analysis for confounding factors.

“Once we accounted for age, education, hours of sleep, physical activity level, and diabetes status and analyzed the data separately for men and women, the associations with hydration status and water intake were diminished,” says Bethancourt.

Only some of the links after these readjustments remained of interest, specifically the women that showed poorer cognitive performance when they were underhydrated was reported by the researchers.

What’s astonishing is that the same results appeared when they were overhydrated.

“A trend toward lower scores on one of the cognitive function tests among women who were categorized as either underhydrated or overhydrated was the most prominent finding that remained after we accounted for other influential factors,” explains Bethancourt.

The test that those who were overhydrated or underhydrated performed the worst in was “the test of attention, processing speed, and working memory,” she says.

“It was interesting that even though [this test] took only a few minutes, it was the one most strongly associated with lower hydration levels,” notes Bethancourt.

“Other research has similarly suggested that attention may be one of the cognitive domains most affected by hydration status. This left us wondering what the effects of inadequate hydration might be on more difficult tasks requiring longer periods of concentration and focus,” she adds.

Legacy Verve
By Aaron
6th April 2020 22:42

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