Low Sodium Levels May Cause Major Brain Events

If you’ve experienced forgetfulness and foggy thinking, you could be suffering from low levels of sodium—a condition common in older adults. Both water and sodium are critical to how well your cells function.  When you’re healthy, your body naturally controls its sodium and water levels. But your sodium levels naturally drop as you age—which can result in conditions ranging from headaches to seizures.

When the amount of sodium in bodily fluids outside your cells drops, water moves into the cells to balance the levels. This causes the cells to swell with too much water. This results in hyponatremia, which is a metabolic condition where there is not enough sodium (salt) in the bodily fluids outside the cells. Although most cells can handle this swelling, brain cells cannot, because the skull bones confine them. Brain swelling causes most of the symptoms of hyponatremia.

According to Mayo Clinic geriatrician Paul Takahashi, M.D., this imbalance can be linked to age-related problems with metabolizing water. Hyponatremia can also be caused by taking certain diuretic or pain medications, kidney or heart failure, severe vomiting or diarrhea and cirrhosis.  

Some options for relief from hyponatremia stated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) include intravenous (IV) fluids and water restriction. If you are engaging in sports where your body fluids could be depleted, the NCBI recommend replenishing your body with ample electrolytes.