HEALTH

Hydration can significantly impact your physical health, study finds

Jan 2, 2023, 9:55 AM

Closeup image of a beautiful young asian woman holding a glass of water to drink. (File Photo)...

Closeup image of a beautiful young asian woman holding a glass of water to drink. (File Photo)

(File Photo)

(CNN) — You may know that being adequately hydrated is important for day-to-day bodily functions such as regulating temperature and maintaining skin health.

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

“The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down 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 NIH, in a news release.

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

The authors thought optimal hydration might slow down the aging process, based on previous similar research in mice. In those studies, lifelong water restriction increased the serum sodium of mice by 5 millimoles per liter and shortened their life span by six months, which equals 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 study, or ARIC, the research team found adults with serum sodium levels at the higher 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 in their 40s or 50s, and the average age of participants at the final assessment during the study period was 76.

Adults with levels above 142 mEq/L had a 10% to 15% higher chance of being biologically older than their chronological age compared with participants in the 137 to 142 mEq/L range. The participants with higher faster-aging risk also had a 64% higher risk for 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% higher risk of being biologically older and a 21% higher risk of dying early. 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 didn’t have information on how much water participants drank.

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

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

Biological age was determined by biomarkers that measure the performance of different organ systems and processes, including cardiovascular, renal (relating to the kidneys), respiratory, metabolic, immune and inflammatory biomarkers.

High serum sodium levels weren’t the only factor associated with disease, early death and faster aging risk — 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 low regular sodium levels, which has been attributed to diseases causing electrolyte issues, the authors said.

The study analyzed participants over a long period of time, but the findings don’t prove a causal relationship between serum sodium levels and these health outcomes, the authors said. Further studies are needed, they added, but the findings can help doctors identify and guide patients at risk.

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

Sesso noted that the study did not strongly address accelerated aging, “which is a complicated concept that we are just starting 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 out there for which there is no consensus. Second, their data on hydration and accelerated aging were a ‘snapshot’ in time, so we have no way to understand cause and effect.”

Drink enough fluids every day

About half of people worldwide don’t meet recommendations for daily total water intake, according to several studies the authors of the new research cited.

“On the global level, this can have a big impact,” Dmitrieva said in a news release. “Decreased body water content is the most common factor that increases serum sodium, which is why the results suggest that staying well hydrated may slow down the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease.”

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

“The most impressive finding is that this risk (for chronic diseases and aging) is apparent even in individuals who have serum sodium levels that are on the upper end of the ‘normal range,'” said Dr. Richard Johnson, professor at 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 are probably not drinking enough water.”

More than 50% 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 women consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of fluids daily, and that men have 3.7 liters (125 ounces) daily. This recommendation includes all fluids and water-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and soups. Since the average water intake ratio of fluids to foods is around 80:20, that amounts to a daily amount of 9 cups for women and 12 ½ cups for men.

People with health conditions should talk with their doctor about how much fluid intake is right for them.

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

If you’re having trouble staying hydrated, you might need help working the habit into your usual routine. Try leaving a glass of water at your bedside to drink when you wake up, or drink water while your morning coffee is brewing. Anchor your hydration habit to a location you’re in a few times per day, behavioral science expert Dr. B.J. Fogg, founder and director of the Stanford University Behavior Design Lab, previously told CNN.

Related: National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Health

Marijuana grows at Tryke Companies Utah's medical cannabis cultivation facility in Tooele...

Michael Camit

Ironing out Utah’s Medical Cannabis Program

Medical marijuana is one of Utah's most regulated substances, but lawmakers are still trying to iron out the wrinkles in the program.

1 day ago

North American hospitals are seeing a major increase -- 416% over the last two decades -- in teen m...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Decades-long study shows increase in eating disorders among young males

The study showed hospitalizations for young males with eating disorders were up 139%, and even higher in young teens.

2 days ago

Containers holding frozen embryos and sperm are stored in liquid nitrogen at a fertility clinic in ...

Jessica Lowell

The future of IVF in Utah following the Alabama Supreme Court embryo ruling

One expert says they won't know if Utah would interpret its wrongful death statute the same way Alabama did until a case came up .

2 days ago

Doctors analyze a screening of a colon...

Don Brinkerhoff

Younger colon cancer deaths are increasing significantly

Colon cancer deaths are rising and people are dying at a much younger age according to the American Cancer Society.

2 days ago

Rep. Tyler Clancy, R-Provo, speaks about HB261 at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 19,...

Aimee Cobabe

Lawmaker wants to increase maximum amount of time for involuntary civil commitments

Utah lawmakers are supporting a bill to increase the maximum amount of time for involuntary civil commitments.

2 days ago

woman with a therapeutic device on her head to treat depression...

LAURA UNGAR

A brain pacemaker helped a woman with crippling depression. It may soon be available to more people

Researchers say deep brain stimulation, or DBS — could eventually help many of the nearly 3 million Americans with treatment-resistance depression.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Hydration can significantly impact your physical health, study finds