Keeping your hydration levels up is linked with plenty of health benefits, including improved sleep quality, a better mood, and keeping joints lubricated. A new study finds it may also help stave off chronic conditions as we age.
A National Institutes of Health study, recently published in the journal eBioMedicine, investigated serum sodium levels – which go up when a person isn’t taking in enough fluids – and their connection with chronic conditions. They found that higher serum sodium levels were linked with a greater risk of developing chronic conditions and with faster biological aging compared with lower levels. They were also linked with a higher risk of dying at a younger age.
Dr. Natalia Dmitrieva, study author and researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, says, “The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life.”
To conduct the study, the research team drew data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which focuses on the causes of atherosclerosis and how cardiovascular risks and outcomes differ by demographics. For the current study, the team examined the findings of five medical visits for each participant: two when they were in their 50s and three scattered between the ages of 70 and 90. Patients who had high serum sodium levels at the beginning, or those with chronic conditions that could impact those levels, were excluded.
With this data, the researchers evaluated 15 health markers related to biological aging, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. The goal was to understand the function of participants’ cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, renal, and immune systems.
When adjusting for confounding factors, the team found that those with serum sodium levels in the higher amount of the normal range (normal being 135-146 mEq/L) were more apt to show signs of accelerated biological aging. This was based on factors including metabolic and cardiovascular health, lung function, and inflammation. There was a 10-15% increased risk of being biologically older than one’s actual age among those with levels above 142 mEq/L, with that jumping to 50% with levels above 144 mEq/L.
When it came to more apparent health impacts, participants with levels above 142 mEq/L had up to a 64% higher risk of developing conditions including heart failure, stroke, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia. Those with even higher levels – 144.5 to 146 mEq/L – also had a 21% higher risk of premature death, compared with those with lower levels.
While the findings don’t prove that serum sodium levels cause these issues, the team says maintaining your hydration is a good idea.
Dr. Dmitrieva says, “People whose serum sodium is 142 mEq/L or higher would benefit from evaluation of their fluid intake.”
She added this can be accomplished through drinking water, or other fluids like juices, as well as consuming produce with a high water content.
Recommendations for daily water intake vary, but even the lowest call for at least six cups per day. You should also up your fluid intake if you exercise, have a fever, or if you spend time outside on a hot day.