New Study Says Good Hydration May Slow Down Aging And Lessen Risk Of Chronic Disease
Getting healthier may be easier, and cheaper, than you may think. A new study looked into people that have managed to stay better hydrated, and they appear to be healthier than others, while also developing less chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, dementia, and stroke. Moreover, they even live longer lives as compared to those that don’t drink enough fluids.
Study author of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, which was published on January 2, 2022 in the eBioMedicine journal, Natalia Dmitrieva, PhD, said in a press release, “The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life.” Dmitrieva is also a researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute located in Bethesda, Maryland.
How Staying Hydrated Keeps You Healthy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consuming enough water will help keep you dehydrated, which is a health condition that can ‘cause your body to overheat, cloud your thinking and mood, and lead to constipation and kidney stones.’
The CDC also says that staying hydrated ‘in the short term’ also helps cushion and lubricate the joints, while also managing to protect your spinal cord and other vital tissues in the body, as well as help get rid of waste.
Unfortunately, according to the authors, scientists don’t know enough about the long-term impact of dehydration and hydration. They explain that the available evidence shows that ‘less-than-optimal hydration may increase the risk for disease and lead to early death.’
In research published in a September 2019 journal of JCI Insight, it showed that showed that restricting water throughout the life of a mice managed to shorten their life span by at least six months, which compared to humans, equals around 15 human years.
How Is Hydration In Reference To Biological Age Measured?
Researchers share that the U.S. Census Bureau has indicated that the national median age continue to increase through the years, also since there is an increase in chronic health conditions. So the NIH researchers designed their study to examine whether the aging process may slow down if humans manage to maintain an ‘optimal state of hydration.’
The study team looked at health data from 11,255 black and white adults from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, which was collected over a 30-year period. The first assessment of patients was recorded in 1987, where patients were in their 40s and 50s. At the final assessment of the study, the average age of participants was 76 years old.
The authors looked at a person’s biological age, meaning how their body works as compared to their chronological age, via biomarkers of the variety of organs and their processes. These included the metabolic, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, renal – meaning the kidneys – as well as the inflammatory measurements.
Instead of tracking the fluid intake of the study participants, the researchers also used the serum sodium level as an indicator of their hydration. Easily explained, the serum sodium level is ‘a measurement of how much sodium is in your blood.’ So what this means is that the more hydrated you are, your serum sodium level should be lower. It’s usually done during a patient’s annual blood tests to see these levels, ‘where the range should be between 135 to 146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).’
Those ‘Optimally Hydrated’ Were Linked With a Lower Risk of Chronic Disease
The NIH scientists adjusted the factors of the data which could influence their results, such as age, biological sex, race, high blood pressure and smoking status. What they found is that adults with higher than normal serum sodium levels actually had worse health outcomes than those whose levels were in the lower range.
The result showed that ‘adults with levels above 142 mEq/L were 10 to 15 percent more likely to be biologically older than their chronological age compared with participants in the 137 to 142 mEq/L range.’
Moreover, for those participants considered “faster aging” were found to have higher levels of serum sodium, and also had a 64 percent higher risk for developing chronic diseases like stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure, diabetes, dementia, and chronic lung disease.
The study also shared that ‘People with levels above 144 mEq/L had a 50 percent higher risk of being biologically older and a 21 percent higher risk of dying early compared to people with a level between 137 to 142 mEq/L.’
Meanwhile, those with serum sodium levels that were in between 138 to 140 mEq/L were considered the lowest risk for developing chronic disease.
There May Be a Link Between Obesity and Drinking Less Water
When asked about the NIH study, which he was not a part of, Professor of medicine, clinician and researcher at the University of Colorado in Aurora, Richard Johnson, MD, said,
“There is a wide variation in how much water people are drinking, and also how much salt we are eating.”
Dr. Johnson also shared that there is a correlation between people with obesity, or who are prone to have obesity, don’t drink as much water, while also having high amounts of salt in their diet, which are two factors that increase the sodium concentration in the blood.
He adds, “Our experimental studies in laboratory animals have suggested that this process can actually activate processes that can cause obesity and diabetes. This paper appears to find evidence that this is the case in humans.”
The NIH study also suggests that the amount of sodium concentration found in the blood can foresee the risk of chronic diseases and even aging. Dr. Johnson explains, “The striking finding is that sodium levels that are considered normal, but are on the high end, are predicting increased risk. This goes along with other data suggesting many of us are not hydrating very well.”
However, the NIH researchers also said that the findings don’t necessarily prove that having optimal hydration actually lessens the risk of early death. But there is an association between the two that doesn’t necessarily prove cause-and-effect, meaning more randomized and controlled trials are needed on this subject.
But, the authors still note that the study still reinforces strong reasons for people to follow the daily recommended intake of fluids.
And while Dr. Johnson agrees that while higher serum sodium levels are associated with higher risk, it doesn’t prove that the serum level is what causes this risk. Dr. Johnson goes on to say, “However, studies in laboratory animals have identified biological mechanisms by which mild dehydration can cause obesity.”
So How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?
So exactly how much water is enough? Although there are a few recommendations of how much water adults should drink on a daily basis, 8 glasses being the general guide, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have shared that 15.5 cups of fluid for men and 11.5 cups of fluid for water is the adequate daily intake. They explain that this number includes all beverages, not just water. In fact, even food is included here since almost 20 percent of people’s fluid intake comes from their food intake.
“I think it is a good idea to drink a glass of water with each meal, and to drink some water throughout the day. Targeting the National Academy of Medicine recommendations is a good idea,” says Dr. Johnson. In addition, he also shares that measuring serum sodium could be helpful too.
For those that need additional help drinking more fluids, health coach at Cleveland Clinic In Ohio, Erin Coates, RD, suggest taking a 16-ounce water bottle and placing 5 rubber bands around it every morning. Every time you drink an entire bottle, remove one of the bands. Once you remove all the bands, you’ve completed the amount of water you should have drank throughout the day.
Dr. Johnson iterates that some people need to check first with their doctors about increasing their fluid intake. He says, “If you do have serious health issues, like heart failure, or a low serum sodium, I recommend discussing with your doctor before you drink a lot of water. Marathon runners can also hold onto too much water with extensive exercise, and this group should only drink when thirsty.”