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Turns out, poor hydration can cause faster ageing, chronic issues

By now, we all know the importance of staying hydrated — aids weight loss, makes the skin glow and also helps many organs function optimally. But, according to a new study, drinking an adequate amount of water can also delay ageing, and prevent certain chronic issues.

According to the study by the National Institutes of Health, published in the journal eBioMedicine, adults who stay hydrated seem to be fitter as they develop fewer chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease, and live longer than those who may not get enough fluids.

Using health data gathered from 11,255 adults over a 30-year period, researchers analysed links between serum sodium levels – which go up when fluid intake goes down – and various indicators of health. The study found that 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 serum sodium levels in the medium ranges”. Adults with higher levels were also more likely to die at a younger age.

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

Researchers assessed information study participants shared during five medical visits – the first two when they were in their 50s, and the last when they were between ages 70-90. To allow for a fair comparison between how hydration correlated with health outcomes, researchers excluded adults who had high levels of serum sodium at baseline check-ins or with underlying conditions, like obesity, that could affect serum sodium levels.

They then evaluated how serum sodium levels correlated with biological ageing, which was assessed through 15 health markers. This included factors such as systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, which provided insight into 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 that 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.

Similarly, the study noted that 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. Conversely, adults with serum sodium levels between 138-140 mEq/L had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease.

Here’s what experts say

Dehydration is directly proportional to the aggravation of various age-related disorders, stressed Dr Prabhakar B R, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Sheshadripuram, Bangalore establishing the relation that insufficient or lack of water consumption in a day leads to dehydration which, in turn, strains vital organs. “If an individual is habituated to consume less water, this can have a severe long-term health impact, especially on kidney health. It is advisable to consume eight glasses of water daily to stay hydrated and healthy,” he told indianexpress.com.

Agreed with Dr Tushar Tayal, senior consultant, Internal Medicine at Narayana Hospital Gurugram and mentioned that since the human body consists of around 60-65 per cent water, cells need hydration to work properly.

Dr Shobha Subramanian-Itolikar, consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital Mulund shared how drinking an adequate amount of water helps:

Skin: Water is essential for soft supple, and wrinkle-free skin

Gut health: Regular and adequate water consumption helps in getting rid of acidity and digestive issues and smoothens bowel movements, thus improving the quality of life in elderly individuals

Detox: Toxins are eliminated via sweat, urine, and faeces through the medium of water. This helps to build immunity.

Cellular functions: Water ensures oxygen supply to the brain and other vital organs, thereby prolonging their longevity

Body temperature regulation: Temperature regulation is impaired as we age, hence there could be heart rate fluctuations and cardiac disorders. Adequate hydration will help to overcome this problem.

Electrolyte balance: Consistent hydration prevents sodium imbalance in the body and prolongs survival.