Could hydration levels influence cognitive function?

Dehydration can cause headaches and several physiological issues, and older adults are most at risk of experiencing it. Does it also affect cognitive function, however? And might overhydration also affect mental performance?

Dehydration can cause headaches, lethargy, dizziness, and many other issues, depending on how severe it is.

Studies have tended to focus on the effects of dehydration in younger populations — especially in the context of sports and fitness, where overexertion and abundant sweating can cause people to lose more fluids than they than ingest.

However, one segment of the population is particularly susceptible to dehydration: older adults.

“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.

Older adults also have a higher risk of cognitive impairment. Are their hydration levels and their cognitive performance linked in any way? Bethancourt and colleagues set out to answer this question in a new study.

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