You probably already know that water is crucial for basic biological processes like controlling temperature and keeping skin healthy.
The National Institutes of Health published a study in the journal biomedicine on Monday that found that people who drank the recommended amount of water each day had a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases, an early death rate, and a biological age that was older than their chronological age.
Results “indicate that proper hydration may slow down aging and lengthen 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 part of the NIH.
The authors of the study call it a “major problem of preventive medicine” to figure out what kinds of preventative interventions can slow down the ageing process. As the global population ages fast, “age-dependent chronic illnesses” are spreading like wildfire.
In addition to lowering health care expenditures, increasing the average healthy lifespan also improves the quality of life. Following similar studies in mice, the scientists hypothesized that maintaining an adequate level of body water intake could retard the aging process.
For example, in mice, chronic water deprivation led to an increase in serum sodium of 5 millimoles per liter and a reduction in lifespan of 6 months, which is equivalent to around 15 years in humans. Reducing fluid intake leads to a rise in serum sodium, which may be tested in the blood.
Adults with serum sodium levels at the upper 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, the researchers found using data collected over 30 years from 11,255 Black and White adults in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, or ARIC.
Participants were in their forties and fifties when data collection began in 1987, and by the time of the last evaluation (when they were an average of 76 years old), the study was over. For adults, the risk of being biologically older than their chronological age increased by 10% to 15% for those with levels above 142 mEq/L compared to those in the 137-142 mEq/L range.
More than twice as many people at higher risk of rapid ageing also had a 64% higher risk of having chronic conditions such heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation, peripheral artery disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia.
People whose levels were above 144 mEq/L were also at a greater risk of being biologically elderly (by 50%) and dying at a younger age (21%). However, the risk of acquiring a chronic condition was shown to be lowest in adults whose serum sodium levels were between 138 and 140 mEq/L. Participants’ water intake was not recorded in the study.
Observational evidence from this study “reinforces the potential long-term benefits of improved hydration on reductions in long-term health outcomes, including mortality,” wrote Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
However, Sesso was not involved in the research. However, as Sesso pointed out, “it would have been interesting to combine their definition of hydration, based on blood salt levels exclusively, with real fluid intake data from the ARIC cohort.”
Biomarkers that evaluate the functioning of several organs and functions, such as those involved in cardiovascular health, renal health, pulmonary health, metabolic health, immunity, and inflammation, were used to calculate biological age.
In addition to high serum sodium levels being linked to an increased risk of disease, premature mortality, and accelerated aging, low serum sodium levels were also found to increase this risk.
Low regular sodium levels are associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease, which the authors attribute to disorders that disrupt electrolyte balance.
Although this study looked at its subjects for an extended period of time, the investigators still concluded that there was no proof of a causal link between elevated salt levels in the blood and the aforementioned health problems.
They noted that more research was needed, but that the preliminary results could aid clinicians in guiding patients who are at risk. A review of fluid consumption is recommended for those whose serum sodium is 142 mEq/L or above, as stated by Dmitrieva.
Accelerated ageing “is a complicated notion that we are just starting to comprehend,” Sesso said, noting that it was not thoroughly explored in the study. According to Sesso, “two essential causes underlying this.”
It’s true that the researchers “relied on a combination of 15 metrics for accelerated ageing,” but this is just one of several categories for which there is no consensus. Second, we can’t determine what caused what because their hydration and accelerated ageing data was a static picture.
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