Researchers find a super simple key to healthy aging: good hydration!

Woman drinking glass of water

A study published in eBioMedicine by the National Institutes of Health found that adults who maintain adequate hydration tend to have better health, have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart and lung disease, and live longer compared to those who do not consume enough fluids.

The NIH findings may provide early clues about the increased risks of advanced biological aging and premature death.

Adults who stay well hydrated appear to be healthier, develop fewer chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease, and live longer than those who don’t get enough fluids, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published June 2. from January. , 2023, in the magazine eBioMedicine.

Using health data collected from 11,255 adults over a 30-year period, the researchers looked at the links between serum sodium levels, which rise when fluid intake decreases, and various indicators of health. They found that adults with serum sodium levels at the high end of a normal range were more likely to develop chronic disease and show signs of advanced biological aging than those with serum sodium levels in the midranges. Adults with higher levels were also more likely to die at a younger age.

“The results suggest that adequate hydration can delay aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said Natalia Dmitrieva, Ph.D., study author and researcher at the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart University, Los Lungs and Blood. Institute (NHLBI), part of the NIH.

The study builds on research the scientists published in March 2022, which found links between higher ranges of normal serum sodium levels and increased risks of heart failure. Both findings came from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, which includes substudies involving thousands of black and white adults from across the United States. The first ARIC substudy began in 1987 and has helped researchers better understand risk factors for heart disease, while shaping clinical guidelines for its treatment and prevention.

For this latest analysis, the researchers evaluated information that study participants shared during five medical visits: the first two when they were 50 years old and the last when they were between 70 and 90 years old. To allow a fair comparison between how hydration correlated with health outcomes, the investigators excluded adults who had high serum sodium levels at baseline checks or with underlying conditions, such as obesity, that might affect serum sodium levels. sodium.

They then assessed how serum sodium levels correlated with biological aging, which was assessed through 15 health markers. This included factors, such as systolic blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, which provided information about how well each person’s cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, renal and immune systems were working. They also adjusted for factors such as age, race, biological sex, smoking status, and high blood pressure.

They found that adults with higher levels of normal serum sodium, with normal ranges between 135 and 146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L), were more likely to show signs of faster biological aging. This was based on indicators such as metabolic and cardiovascular health, lung function, and inflammation. For example, adults with serum sodium levels above 142 mEq/L had an associated 10-15% increased odds of being biologically older than their chronological age compared to ranges between 137 and 142 mEq/L, while that levels above 144 mEq/L correlated with a 50% increase. Likewise, levels of 144.5-146 mEq/L were associated with a 21% increased risk of premature death compared to ranges between 137-142 mEq/L.

Similarly, adults with serum sodium levels greater than 142 mEq/L had up to a 64% increased associated risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation and peripheral arterial disease, as well as chronic lung disease, diabetes and dementia. In contrast, adults with serum sodium levels between 138 and 140 mEq/L had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease.

The findings do not prove a cause-and-effect effect, the researchers noted. Randomized controlled trials are needed to determine whether optimal hydration can promote healthy aging, prevent disease, and lead to longer life. However, associations can still inform clinical practice and guide personal health behaviour.

“People whose serum sodium is 142 mEq/L or higher would benefit from an assessment of their fluid intake,” Dmitrieva said. She noted that most people can safely increase their fluid intake to reach recommended levels, which can be done with water and other fluids, such as juices or vegetables and fruits with a high water content. The National Academies of Medicine, for example, suggest that most women consume about 6 to 9 glasses (1.5 to 2.2 liters) of fluids per day and for men, 8 to 12 glasses (2 to 3 liters).

Others may need medical guidance due to underlying health conditions. “The goal is to ensure that patients are getting enough fluids, while also evaluating factors, such as medications, that can lead to fluid loss,” said Manfred Boehm, MD, study author and director of the Laboratory of Medicine Cardiovascular Regenerative. “Doctors may also need to defer a patient’s current treatment plan, such as limiting fluid intake for heart failure.”

The authors also cited research finding that about half of people worldwide do not meet recommendations for total daily water intake, which often starts at 6 cups (1.5 liters).

“Globally, this can have a huge impact,” Dmitrieva said. “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.”

Reference: “High normal serum sodium in middle age as a risk factor for accelerated biological aging, chronic diseases, and premature mortality” by Natalia I. Dmitrieva, Alessandro Gagarin, Delong Liu, Colin O. Wu, and Manfred Boehm, January 2 of 2023, eBioMedicine.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2022.104404

This investigation was supported by the NHLBI Division of Internal Investigation. The ARIC study has been supported by research contracts from the NHLBI, NIH, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

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