Home Study: Hydration promotes healthy aging and longer life, prevents disease
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Study: Hydration promotes healthy aging and longer life, prevents disease

Crystal Graham
tap water
(© Brian Jackson – stock.abobe.com)

It turns out the key to good health may be as simple as drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. A new study published in eBioMedicine showed that adults who stay hydrated appear to be healthier, develop fewer chronic conditions and live longer than those who may not drink enough fluids.

The study by the National Institutes of Health gathered data from 11,255 adults over a 30-year period. Researchers looked at serum sodium levels – which go up when fluid intake goes down. The researchers found that adults who didn’t drink enough fluids were more likely to develop chronic conditions and show signs of advance biological aging. Adults with higher levels were also more likely to die at a younger age.

“The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said Natalia Dmitrieva, Ph.D., a study author and researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH.

The study expands on research the scientists published in March 2022, which found links between higher ranges of normal serum sodium levels and increased risks for heart failure.

For this latest analysis, researchers assessed information study participants shared during five medical visits – the first two when they were in their 50s, and the last when they were between ages 70-90. To allow for a fair comparison between how hydration correlated with health outcomes, researchers excluded adults who had high levels of serum sodium at baseline check-ins or with underlying conditions, like obesity, that could affect serum sodium levels.

They then evaluated how serum sodium levels correlated with biological aging, which was assessed through 15 health markers. Factors included systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, which provided insight about how well each person’s cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, renal and immune system was functioning. They also adjusted for factors, like age, race, biological sex, smoking status and hypertension.

The findings don’t prove a causal effect, the researchers noted. Randomized, controlled trials are necessary to determine if optimal hydration can promote healthy aging, prevent disease and lead to a longer life. However, the associations can still inform clinical practice and guide personal health behavior.

Dmitrieva said that most people can safely increase their fluid intake to meet recommended levels, which can be done with water as well as other fluids, like juices, or vegetables and fruits with a high water content.

Others may need medical guidance due to underlying health conditions.

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

The National Academies of Medicine, for example, recommend that most women consume around 6-9 cups of fluids daily and for men, 8-12 cups.  The authors cited research that finds about half of people worldwide don’t meet recommendations for daily total water intake.

“On the global level, this can have a big impact,” Dmitrieva said. “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.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.