Staying Hydrated May Prevent Early Death


Pouring water from a bottle into a glass on blue background | Image by Tarasyuk Igor, Shutterstock

Researchers found that regularly drinking water may slow aging, prevent chronic illness, and save you from an early grave.

A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published on January 2 in The Lancet followed over 15,000 middle-aged participants for 25 years. Scientists tested serum sodium or sodium concentration levels to determine hydration.

Then, they calculated biological age from 15 different “age-dependent biomarkers” such as blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol, uric acid levels, and respiratory function.

Those who were chronically dehydrated showed an “increased risk of premature mortality by 21%” compared to those who maintained recommended hydration levels.

Moreover, dehydration increased the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart failure, blood clots, diabetes, and dementia by 44%.

Sufficient hydration was also shown to help prevent people from biologically aging faster than their chronological age.

Participants who did not drink enough water aged 10-15% faster than their chronological age. For extremely dehydrated participants, aging could increase by 50%.

“The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life,” said Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of NIH, and one of the authors of the study.

The importance of hydration perhaps comes as no surprise considering that nearly 80% of the human body is composed of water, most of which is contained within cells. Perhaps less thought about, however, is the negative impact of dehydration, which together with high salt concentration can deteriorate the body on a cellular level and lead to hypertonic dehydration.

Commenting on the new study, Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that it “adds observational evidence that reinforces the potential long-term benefits of improved hydration on reductions in long-term health outcomes, including mortality.”

Still, Dr. Sesso, who was not involved in the research, said, “It would have been nice to combine their definition of hydration, based on serum sodium levels only, with actual fluid intake data from the ARIC cohort.”

Another problem identified by Sesso was that the researchers “relied on a combination of 15 measures for accelerated aging, but this is one of many definitions out there for which there is no consensus.”

Moreover, the data utilized were a “snapshot in time, so we have no way to understand cause and effect,” he said.

Regardless, medical experts have agreed that staying hydrated is critical and despite the four-to-six-cup recommendation, more than half of U.S. adults do not drink enough water.

The consequences are serious since beyond potentially preventing early aging and death, proper hydration can promote weight loss and aid in weight management because some misinterpret dehydration for hunger cues. On the whole, proper hydration could prevent misinterpreted hunger cues and easily cut excess calories.

For example, a study published in 2016 in the Annals of Family Medicine “found a significant association between inadequate hydration and elevated BMI and inadequate hydration and obesity.” People who did not drink enough water had higher body mass indexes (BMI) than people who did.

This means that the solution to the growing obesity epidemic may be on tap.

A BMI of 30.0 or higher constitutes obesity. The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported that 33.1% of Dallas-Fort Worth residents are obese.

While this may seem like a deluge of information, the science and that cup of water should be pretty clear: drink up.

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