The secret to a longer and healthier life? At least part of the answer may be quite simple: water.
A new peer-reviewed study published Monday in the journal eBioMedicine, which is part of The Lancet, suggests that people who get adequate hydration may be less likely to show signs of aging and chronic disease. Researchers analyzed health data from more than 15,700 adults aged 45 to 66 for more than 25 years, specifically looking at their serum sodium levels, or the amount of sodium in their blood. The researchers said these levels are an indicator of their hydration habits.
They found that people who had more than 142 millimoles of serum sodium – the upper limit of normal – had a 39% greater risk of developing chronic disease and up to 50% more likely to have biological age markers “older than their chronological age.” Those with more than 144 millimols of serum sodium also had a 21% increased risk of premature death.
“The results suggest that adequate hydration can slow aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said study author Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “…On a global level, this could have a big impact. Decreased body water is the most common factor in increasing serum sodium, so the results suggest that staying well hydrated can slow the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease.”
The research does not prove that drinking more water will reduce aging – a term that would require additional intervention studies – but it does suggest that people with higher blood sodium levels are more likely to “age biologically, develop chronic disease and die” at a younger age. says the study, adding that dehydration is one of the biggest factors that increase these levels.
The researchers found that the optimal range of serum sodium for the lowest risk of chronic disease and/or premature death is 138 to 142 millimoles. People with a level of 142 or higher “would benefit from assessing fluid intake,” said Dmitrieva.
Taking a closer look at hydration may have other benefits. Proper hydration is essential to help your body regulate temperature, improve athletic performance, and keep your organs functioning properly.
So how much water is enough?
According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, adult women should have an average of 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of water per day, while adult men should have around 3.7 liters (125 ounces). But it doesn’t all have to come from glasses of water; also includes water intake from other beverages and foods.
These figures are based on the expected needs of healthy and relatively inactive people in temperate climates, so the actual amount of hydration a person needs may vary based on physical activity, heat exposure, amount of food eaten, and other variables.
There are also several ways to check if you are not consuming enough water. According to Kaiser Permanente, urine that is darker in color or has noticeably decreased in frequency can be an indicator, as can bad breath, dry mouth, fatigue and sugar cravings. More serious problems, such as confusion, dizziness, fainting, or palpitations, can also be a sign of dehydration.
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