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You may know that adequate hydration is important for daily bodily functions such as 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 a lower risk of being biologically older than your chronological age, according to a study of National Institutes of Health published Monday in the journal eBioMedicine.
“The results suggest that proper hydration can slow aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said study author Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher in the Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the NIH, in a press release.
Learning which preventative measures can slow the aging process is “a major challenge in preventive medicine,” the authors said in the study. Indeed, an epidemic of “chronic age-related diseases” is emerging as the world’s population ages rapidly. And extending a healthy lifespan can help improve quality of life and reduce health care costs more than just treating disease.
The authors believed that optimal hydration might slow the aging process, based on previous similar research in mice. In these studies, lifelong fluid 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 in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities, or ARIC, study, the research team found adults whose sodium levels serum levels were at the upper end of the normal range, 135 to 146 milliequivalents per liter. (mEq/L) — had poorer 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 final evaluation over the study period was 76.
Adults with levels above 142 mEq/L were 10% to 15% more likely to be biologically older than their chronological age compared to participants in the 137-142 mEq/L range. Participants with more the risk of aging faster also had a 64% higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial 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 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 did not have information on how much water the participants drank.
“This study adds observational evidence that reinforces the potential long-term benefits of improved hydration on reducing long-term health outcomes, including mortality,” said Dr. Howard Sesso, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an epidemiologist associated with Brigham. and Women’s Hospital of Boston, via email. Sesso did not participate 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 has been determined by 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 weren’t the only factor associated with disease, early death and the risk of faster aging – the risk was also higher in people with low serum sodium levels.
This finding is consistent with previous reports of increased mortality and cardiovascular disease in people with regular low sodium levels, which has been attributed to diseases causing electrolyte problems, the authors said.
The study analyzed participants over a long period of time, but the results did not prove a causal relationship between serum sodium levels and these health outcomes, the authors said. More studies are needed, they added, but the results can help doctors identify and guide at-risk patients.
“People with serum sodium of 142 mEq/L or higher would benefit from having their fluid intake assessed,” Dmitrieva said.
Sesso noted that the study did not strongly address accelerated aging, “which is a complicated concept that we are only just beginning to understand.”
“Two main reasons underlie this,” Sesso said. The study authors “relyed 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 was a “snapshot” in time, so we have no way of understanding cause and effect. »
About half of the world’s people do not meet total daily water intake recommendations, according to several studies cited by the authors of the new research.
“Globally, this can have a big 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 proper hydration can slow the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease.”
Our serum sodium levels are influenced by fluid intake from water, other liquids, and fruits and vegetables with high water content.
“The most impressive finding is that this risk (for chronic disease and aging) is apparent even in people whose serum sodium levels are at the upper end of the ‘normal range,'” Dr. Richard Johnson, professor at the University. from the Colorado School of Medicine, via email. He did not participate in the study.
“It challenges the question of what is truly normal and supports the concept that, as a population, we are probably not drinking enough water.”
More than 50% of your body is made up of water, which is also needed for multiple functions, including the digestion of food, the creation of hormones and neurotransmitters, and the delivery of 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 per day and men 3.7 liters (125 ounces) per day. This recommendation includes all liquids and water-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and soups. Since the average water intake ratio of liquids to food is about 80:20, this equates to a daily amount of 9 cups for women and 12½ cups for men.
People with medical conditions should discuss with their doctor how much fluid is right for them.
“The goal is to ensure patients are getting enough fluids, while assessing factors, such as medications, that may be causing fluid loss,” said study co-author Dr. Manfred Boehm, director of the Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, in a press release. “Physicians may also need to defer to a patient’s current treatment plan, such as limiting fluid intake for heart failure.”
If you have trouble staying hydrated, you may need help integrating this habit into your regular routine. Try leaving a glass of water by your bedside to drink when you wake up, or drink some water while your morning coffee is brewing. Anchor your hydration habit to a place where you are several times a day, behavioral science expert Dr. BJ Fogg, founder and director of Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab, previously told CNN.