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Study Finds Link Between Hydration and Aging

Link Between Hydration and Aging
Study Finds Link Between Hydration and Aging. Credit: Vlada Karpovich / Pexels / Public Domain

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted intriguing research that reveals those who don’t drink enough water may have a higher chance of developing chronic diseases and earlier death.

This latest study was motivated by the findings of a previous one at the NIH—conducted by the same group of researchers—that examined the effects of long-term water restriction on the health of lab mice.

A 2019 study discovered that mice whose lives were constantly threatened by a lack of water saw their longevity decline by six months, which is the human equivalent of fifteen years.

Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate whether or not human hydration levels affect health and lifespan. Researchers analyzed information from a long-term study on heart health that has been ongoing since the 1980s. More than fifteen thousand people were monitored for an average of almost twenty-five years.

Serum sodium levels and aging

Researchers examined serum sodium levels in blood samples as a proxy for hydration status. A serum sodium level between 135 and 146 millimoles per liter (mmol/l) has long been accepted as an indicator of optimal overall hydration in healthy populations.

Over the course of twenty-five years, serum sodium levels and fifteen other health indicators were monitored to determine the biological aging of the cohort. Blood sugar, insulin, and other immunological biomarkers were among these indicators.

A higher blood sodium level of more than 142 mmol/l was associated with a more rapid rate of biological aging in the study’s participants. In particular, anything above this level increased the likelihood that a person would seem physiologically older than their chronological age by up to fifteen percent.


Furthermore, those whose serum sodium levels measured over 144 mmol/l were up to fifty percent more likely to seem older than they actually were.

It was found that the chance of developing chronic diseases, including heart failure, diabetes, and dementia, increases by sixty-four percent when blood salt levels are above 142 mmol/l.

Higher blood sodium levels increase the risk of mortality

A twenty-one percent increase in the risk of mortality was identified in individuals with the highest blood sodium levels (144.5-146 mmol/l) compared to those with the lowest.

It is important to note, however, that despite the latest research findings, we should not jump to conclusions about cause and effect based on correlations alone. Hence, researchers are cautious in pointing out that their findings do not prove chronic dehydration directly causes a reduction in lifespan.

Perhaps people who consistently drink plenty of water also tend to eat well and get plenty of exercise, making modest levels of daily hydration a reasonable proxy for a healthy lifestyle in general.

However, researchers do also note that there is at least some laboratory evidence demonstrating that dehydration can cause animal and human cells to exhibit indications of aging.

In these studies, increased serum sodium has also been shown to cause pro-inflammatory activity and DNA damage associated with accelerated aging.

Hence, it is reasonable to speculate that although the amount of water one drinks might not directly cause age-related illnesses, chronic sub-optimal hydration is certainly a contributing factor at least indirectly or partially.

Natalia Dmitrieva, a co-author of the aforementioned study, said that, in any case, those whose blood salt levels were higher than 142 mmol/l would surely benefit from drinking more water. It has been estimated that around half of all people do not drink enough water each day.

Dmitrieva concludes that a simple intervention focusing on hydration might have a major impact on global health if additional research can confirm the link between the two.

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