Staying hydrated is linked to lower risk of disease and lower risk of dying early, study finds

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You may know that being adequately hydrated is important for everyday bodily functions, like regulating temperature and maintaining skin health.

But drinking enough water is also associated with a significantly lower risk of developing chronic disease, a lower risk of dying prematurely or a lower risk of being biologically older than your chronological age, according to a National Institutes of Health study published Monday in the journal eBioMedicine magazine.

“The results suggest that adequate hydration can slow aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said study author Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the NIH, in a press release.

Learning what preventive measures can slow the aging process is “a major challenge of preventive medicine,” the authors said in the study. This is because an epidemic of “chronic age-dependent diseases” is emerging as the world’s population ages rapidly. And extending a healthy life can help improve quality of life and lower health care costs more than simply treating disease.

The authors thought that optimal hydration might slow down the aging process, based on previous similar research in mice. In those studies, lifetime water restriction increased the mice’s serum sodium by 5 millimoles per liter and shortened their lifespan by six months, which is equivalent to about 15 years of human life, according to the new study. Serum sodium can be measured in the blood and increases when we drink less fluids.

Using health data collected over 30 years from 11,255 black and white adults from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, or ARIC, study, the research team found adults with serum sodium levels at the high end of the normal range, which is 135 to 146. milliequivalents per liter. (mEq/L) — had worse health outcomes than those at the lower end of the range. Data collection began in 1987 when participants were between the ages of 40 and 50, and the average age of participants at final assessment during the study period was 76 years.

Adults with levels greater than 142 mEq/L were 10-15% more likely to be biologically older than their chronological age compared with participants in the 137-142 mEq/L range. Participants at highest risk of aging faster also had a 64 percent increased risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia.

And people with levels above 144 mEq/L had a 50% increased risk of being biologically elderly and a 21% increased risk of dying prematurely. Adults with serum sodium levels between 138 and 140 mEq/L, on the other hand, had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease. The study had no information on how much water the participants drank.

“This study adds observational evidence reinforcing the potential long-term benefits of improved hydration in reducing long-term health outcomes, including mortality,” said Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at the School of Harvard Medicine and associate epidemiologist at Brigham. and Women’s Hospital Boston, via email. Sesso was not involved in the study.

However, “it would have been nice to combine their definition of hydration, based solely on serum sodium levels, with the actual fluid intake data from the ARIC cohort,” Sesso added.

Biological age was determined using biomarkers that measure the performance of different organ systems and processes, including cardiovascular, renal (kidney-related), respiratory, metabolic, immune, and inflammatory biomarkers.

High serum sodium levels were not the only factor associated with disease, premature death, and risk of faster aging; the risk was also higher among people with low serum sodium levels.

This finding is consistent with previous reports of increased mortality and cardiovascular disease in people with regularly low sodium levels, which have been attributed to diseases that cause electrolyte problems, the authors said.

The study followed the participants over a long period of time, but the findings do not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between serum sodium levels and these health outcomes, the authors said. More studies are needed, they added, but the findings may help doctors identify and guide patients at risk.

“People whose serum sodium is 142 mEq/L or higher would benefit from an assessment of their fluid intake,” Dmitrieva said.

Sesso noted that the study did not firmly address accelerated aging, “which is a complicated concept that we are just beginning to understand.”

“Two key reasons underlie this,” Sesso said. The study authors “relied on a combination of 15 measures for accelerated aging, but this is one of many definitions for which there is no consensus. Second, their data on hydration and accelerated aging were a ‘snapshot’ in time, so they have no way of understanding cause and effect.


About half of people worldwide do not meet recommendations for total daily water intake, according to several studies cited by the authors of the new research.

“Globally, this can have a huge impact,” Dmitrieva said in a press release. “Decreased body water content is the most common factor that increases serum sodium, so the results suggest that staying well hydrated may slow the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease.”

Our serum sodium levels are influenced by fluid intake from water, other fluids, and fruits and vegetables with high water content.

“The most impressive finding is that this risk (of chronic disease and aging) is evident even in people who have serum sodium levels that are at the high end of the ‘normal range,'” said Dr. Richard Johnson, professor of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, via email. He was not involved in the study.

“This challenges the question of what is really normal and supports the concept that as a population we probably aren’t drinking enough water.”

More than 50 percent of your body is made of water, which is also needed for multiple functions, including digesting food, creating hormones and neurotransmitters, and delivering oxygen throughout your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) recommends that women consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of fluids per day and that men drink 3.7 liters (125 ounces) per day. This recommendation includes all liquids and foods rich in water such as fruits, vegetables, and soups. Since the average ratio of water intake from liquid to food is around 80:20, that equates to a daily allowance of 9 cups for women and 12 ½ cups for men.

People with health problems should talk to their doctor about the proper amount of fluids to drink.

“The goal is to ensure that patients are getting enough fluids, while evaluating factors, such as medications, that can lead to fluid loss,” study co-author Dr. Manfred Boehm, director of the study, said in a news release. of the Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Laboratory. “Doctors may also need to defer a patient’s current treatment plan, such as limiting fluid intake for heart failure.”

If you’re having trouble staying hydrated, you may need help making the habit part of your regular routine. Try leaving a glass of water by your bed to drink when you wake up, or drink water while you make your morning coffee. Anchor your hydration habit to a place you find yourself several times a day, behavioral scientist Dr. BJ Fogg, founder and director of Stanford University’s Behavioral Design Lab, previously told CNN.

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