According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, those who aren’t adequately hydrated may age more rapidly, have a greater risk of chronic diseases, and have a greater likelihood of dying at a younger age than those who stay adequately hydrated.
According to NBC News, the findings, released on Monday, are based on information collected from over 11,000 U.S. people over the course of 25 years. The participants had their initial medical care between the ages of 45 and 66, then returned for follow-up care between the ages of 70 and 90.
The researchers used sodium levels in the individuals’ blood as a proxy for hydration, since larger concentrations are indicative of inadequate fluid consumption. The researchers discovered that people with high blood-sodium levels biologically aged more quickly than those with lower levels, which was mirrored in age-related health markers such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
All of the subjects in the study had sodium levels within the normal range, between 135 and 146 millimoles per liter. People with blood-sodium levels above 144 millimoles per liter were 50% more likely than those with lower blood-sodium levels to exhibit indications of physical aging that exceeded what would be predicted for their age. They also had a roughly 20% higher risk of dying prematurely.
Even individuals with blood salt levels above 142 millimoles per liter had greater odds of acquiring chronic disorders, such as heart failure, stroke, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia, according to the study.
One of the study’s authors, Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, stated in an email, “The risk of developing these diseases increases as we age and accumulate damage in numerous bodily parts.” Previous research by Dmitrieva shown that elevated blood salt may be a risk factor for heart failure.
In the same way that regular physical activity and proper nutrition are considered to be components of a healthy lifestyle, she stated that “emerging evidence from our and other studies indicates that adding consistent good hydration to these healthy lifestyle choices may slow the aging process even further.”
However, the authors of the study noted that additional research is necessary to understand whether enough hydration can assist delay aging, prevent disease, or contribute to a longer life.
According to Dr. Lawrence Appel, director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins University, the association between consuming fluids and age-related chronic diseases is “very speculative.” He stated that the NIH study “does not establish that drinking more water prevents chronic disease.”
Blood sodium levels of 150 millimoles per liter or greater — the kind of dehydration one may suffer during an extreme heat wave — would likely be required for adverse health effects to occur, according to Appel.
In addition, he emphasized that variables other than hydration can affect a person’s blood-sodium level, such as the use of diuretics, sometimes known as water pills, to treat hypertension. Dr. Mitchell Rosner, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Virginia, stated in an email that certain persons with neurological disorders or other disabilities might also have elevated blood sodium levels.
Hydration is recognized to provide health advantages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can help patients avoid joint pain and maintain a normal body temperature, as well as prevent constipation and kidney stones.
Asher Rosinger, head of the Water, Health and Nutrition Lab at the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, stated that it is more plausible that chronic dehydration accelerates the aging process than that adequate hydration may halt it. He stated through email that proper water “will ensure kidneys function correctly and physiological stress is not added to the body,
Rosinger noted that a person’s risk of cognitive difficulties, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and kidney damage increases if they don’t drink enough water and instead consume sugar-sweetened beverages.
Women should have six to nine 8-ounce cups of fluid per day, while males should consume eight to twelve. Dmitrieva stated that these suggestions are optimal for the average person, and Rosner concurred. Both experts observed, however, that people have varying hydration demands dependent on their activity level and the surrounding environment.
The customary advises to have eight glasses of water every day, according to Appel, “is not supported by scientific evidence.” According to his findings, normal drinking habits typically result in appropriate hydration. “Dehydration is not a widespread problem in the general population,” he stated.
According to the CDC, the average American adult consumes more than five cups of water every day. High-water-content vegetables and fruits, such as watermelon, celery, and cucumbers, can also aid with hydration. Dmitrieva stated that seltzer and unsweetened tea also offer adequate hydration. According to Rosner, “water is the best beverage, but other beverages are OK in moderation.”