- A recent study found that hydration is key to both good health and a long life.
- Proper hydration ensures a necessary balance of fluids and salt in your blood.
- Maintaining a proper fluid-sodium balance helps prevent the development or worsening of chronic disease and slows the aging process.
Whether you drink it from the tap or buy it bottled, water could be one of your most important tools in the fight against chronic disease, rapid aging, and early death, according to researchers at the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. The researchers studied how blood sodium levels, which generally reflect hydration habits and status, affect health and longevity in an aging population. In a healthy person, blood sodium level increase when there’s not enough fluid intake to stay sufficiently hydrated. This study set out to determine whether or not there is a connection between blood sodium levels measured in middle age and the development of chronic disease and premature death.
The researchers specifically looked at whether high sodium levels in the blood are associated with an individual rate of aging, and also hypothesized that hydration has a strong effect on the speed at which we age. Their hypothesis was based on earlier mouse studies that showed the lifespan of a mouse was shortened by six months—the equivalent of 15 years of human life—when water was restricted, thereby increasing blood levels of sodium. In addition to a shorter life, the mice suffered degeneration of multiple organ systems. Previous human studies also indicated that middle-aged men and women with higher sodium levels more often developed metabolic diseases and heart failure, and died younger, than those with lower blood sodium levels.
The study began with a cumulative analysis of the health data of more than 15,700 Black and White men and women, aged 45 to 66, who were followed for more than 25 years while enrolled in smaller community studies. The participants were narrowed down to eliminate those whose blood sodium and hydration levels were affected by factors other than how much liquid they consumed. For instance, men and women with hypoglycemia, obesity, and disorders that caused abnormalities in the regulation of normal water-salt balance in the body, were not included in this study. Anyone taking blood pressure or cholesterol-lowering medications was also excluded. Ultimately, 11,255 men and women were included in the study.
One’s biological age—based on the health and performance of various organ systems in the body—has been shown to be a more accurate predictor of longevity than actual chronological age. For instance, you might be 55 years old but your biological age, based on various health factors, may be 63 years old, and therefore you may be at much higher risk of chronic disease and premature death than someone who is 55 with a biological age of 45 or 50. Biological age helps explain why some people live longer than others. Those with a biological age more than seven years higher than their actual chronological age have a 50 percent higher risk of early death. In fact, researchers say that one’s actual age becomes irrelevant once their biological age is determined. In this study, participants with blood sodium levels in the higher normal range were found to be at increased risk of being biologically older than their actual age in years.
The bottom line: To stay healthy and lower your risk of chronic disease and early death, it is important to stay sufficiently hydrated and keep your sodium-fluid levels at a healthy balance. In this study, the researchers found that men and women with fasting blood sodium levels higher than 142 mmol/l are at higher risk of faster biological aging and premature death. How much water or fluids are necessary to maintain healthful hydration is something you should discuss with your doctor because the amount can vary from person to person, depending on the state of your individual health.
Dmitrieva NI, Gagarin A, Liu D, Wu CO, Boehm M. Middle-age high normal serum sodium as a risk factor for accelerated biological aging, chronic diseases and premature mortality. Lancet. January 2, 2023; 87 (104404)