Poor hydration linked to early aging and chronic disease in study

According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, adults who aren’t adequately hydrated may age faster, face a higher risk of chronic disease, and be more likely to die younger than those who stay well hydrated.

The findings, released Monday, are based on data collected over 25 years from more than 11,000 adults in the United States. Participants attended their first medical visits between the ages of 45 and 66, then returned for follow-ups between the ages of 70 and 90.

The researchers looked at the participants’ blood sodium levels as an indicator of hydration, as higher levels are a sign that they were probably not consuming enough fluids. Researchers found that participants with high blood sodium levels aged physiologically faster than those with lower levels, which was reflected in health markers associated with aging, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

The study participants all had blood sodium concentrations considered to be within the normal range: 135 to 146 millimoles per litre. But the results suggest that people with levels at the upper end of this normal range – above 144 millimoles per liter – were 50% more likely to show signs of physical aging beyond what one would expect for their years compared to people with low blood sodium levels. levels. They also had an increased risk of premature death of about 20%.

Even people with blood sodium levels above 142 millimoles per liter were at high risk of developing certain chronic diseases, including heart failure, stroke, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia, according to the study.

“The risk of developing these diseases increases as we age and accumulate damage in various body tissues,” said one of the study authors, Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of NIH, in an email.

Dmitrieva’s previous research also revealed that high blood sodium levels may be a risk factor for heart failure.

Just as regular physical activity and good nutrition are considered part of a healthy lifestyle, she said, “emerging evidence from our studies and others indicates that adding a proper hydration consistent with these healthy lifestyle choices can slow the aging process even further.”

But the study authors cautioned that more research is needed to determine whether staying hydrated can help slow aging, prevent disease or extend life.

The relationship between fluid intake and age-related chronic disease remains “highly speculative,” said Dr. Lawrence Appel, director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins University.

The NIH study “does not prove that drinking more water will prevent chronic disease,” he said.

Appel said people would likely need much higher blood sodium levels (150 millimoles per liter or more – the kind of dehydration one might experience during an extreme heat wave) to see negative results for health.

He also warned that many factors other than hydration can influence a person’s blood sodium level, such as taking diuretics, also known as diuretics, for high blood pressure. Some people with neurological conditions or other disabilities may also have higher than average blood sodium levels, Dr. Mitchell Rosner, chair of the University of Virginia’s Department of Medicine, said in an email. .

Dehydration is not a common problem

Staying hydrated has known health benefits. It can help people avoid joint pain and maintain normal body temperature, and it can prevent constipation or kidney stones, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Asher Rosinger, director of the Water, Health and Nutrition Lab at the Penn State College of Health and Human Development, said chronic dehydration is more likely to speed up the aging process than proper hydration can help slow it down.

Proper hydration “will ensure that the kidneys are functioning properly and that additional stress is not physiologically placed on the body,” he said in an email.

If a person doesn’t drink enough water and instead consumes sugary drinks, Rosinger added, the risk of cognitive problems, urinary tract infections, kidney stones and kidney damage increases.

The National Academies of Medicine recommends six to nine 8-ounce cups of fluid per day for women and eight to 12 for men. Dmitrieva said these recommendations are ideal for the average person, and Rosner also found the guidelines reasonable. But the two experts noted that people have different hydration needs depending on their activity level and the external environment.

Appel, meanwhile, said the traditional recommendation to drink about eight glasses of water a day is “not really based on any scientific evidence.” His research found that people’s normal drinking behavior usually leads to adequate hydration.

“Dehydration in the general population just isn’t a common problem,” he said.

The average American adult drinks more than five cups of water a day, according to the CDC. Vegetables and fruits with high water content, such as watermelon, celery and cucumbers, can also help with hydration. Dmitrieva said seltzer water and unsweetened tea also provide good hydration.

As Rosner said, “Water is simply the best, but other drinks are fine in moderation.”


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