Drink up – water could help you live longer

Drinking water - fcafotodigital
Drinking water – fcafotodigital

People who drink more water appear to live longer and develop fewer chronic diseases, a study suggests.

Using health data gathered from 11,255 adults over 30 years, researchers analysed links between serum sodium levels – which go up when fluid intake goes down – and various indicators of health.

They found adults with serum sodium levels at the higher end of a normal range were more likely to develop chronic conditions and show signs of advanced biological ageing than those with levels in the medium ranges.

Adults with higher levels were also more likely to die younger, the researchers said.

The peer-reviewed findings of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a US medical research agency, were published in the eBioMedicine journal on Monday.

“The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down ageing and prolong a disease-free life,” said Natalia Dmitrieva, study author and researcher at the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH.

NHS recommends six to eight drinks a day

The authors did not define “proper hydration”, but according to NHS England people should have six to eight drinks a day, which can include water, lower-fat milks, tea and coffee.

In March, the scientists published a study which found links between higher ranges of normal serum sodium levels and increased risk of heart failure.

For the new study, they assessed information participants shared during five medical visits – the first two when they were in their 50s and the last when they were between 70 and 90.

They excluded adults who had high levels of serum sodium at baseline check-ins or with underlying conditions, like obesity, which could affect serum sodium levels.

They then evaluated how the levels correlated with biological ageing, which was assessed through 15 health markers.

They included factors such as systolic blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, which provided insight about how well each person’s cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, renal and immune system was functioning.

They also adjusted for factors like age, race, biological sex, smoking status and hypertension.

They found adults with higher levels of normal serum sodium – with normal ranges falling between 135-146 milliequivalents per litre (mEq/L) – were more likely to show signs of faster biological ageing.

This was based on indicators like metabolic and cardiovascular health, lung function and inflammation, they said.

Adults with serum sodium levels above 142 mEq/L had up to a 64 per cent increased associated risk for developing chronic diseases like heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation and peripheral artery disease, as well as chronic lung disease, diabetes and dementia, they added.

But adults with serum sodium levels between 138-140 mEq/L had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease, they said.

The researchers said the findings do not prove a causal effect and controlled trials are needed to see if optimal hydration can promote healthy ageing, prevent disease and lead to a longer life.

Concluding the study, the authors said: “Since decreased body water is the most common reason for increasing sodium concentration, these results suggest that for people whose serum sodium exceeds 142 mmol/l, consistently maintaining optimal hydration may slow down aging [sic] process.”

They added: “Results of our study support the hypothesis that optimal hydration can potentially be such [a] systemic preventive approach that is able to prolong diseases-free lifespan.”

It comes after a separate study found some people may need to drink up to six litres of water a day to stay healthy and hydrated.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US analysed the drinking habits of thousands of people from 26 countries and discovered how much they needed varied considerably.

Daily averages ranged from one litre per day to six litres, and included water in other drinks such as tea, and also in food.

Published by anthonyhayble

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