Adults who stay well-hydrated appear to be healthier, develop fewer chronic conditions, such as heart and lung disease, and live longer than those who may not get sufficient fluids, according to a National Institutes of Health study published in eBioMedicine.
According to research, nearly half of the people worldwide do not meet daily water intake recommendations. So, about half of us are living life chronically dehydrated. No wonder we are cranky and irritated!
The life-extending health benefits of drinking water
This post discusses the benefits of drinking water for our health. Fluids are essential for various bodily functions, including helping the heart pump blood efficiently, supporting blood vessel function, and orchestrating circulation. Yet many people take in far less than they need, the researchers said.
How much water do you need?
Every day you lose water through your breath, sweat, urine, and bowel movements. For your body to function correctly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.
So how much fluid does the average healthy adult need? The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters or 124 ounces) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters or 92 ounces) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages, and food. About 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food, and the rest from drinks. (Source Mayo Clinic.)
Chronically dehydrated and unwell
I think that I’ve spent the last 40 years chronically dehydrated. How about you?
As a child, I drank so much water that my mom thought something was wrong with me and brought me to the doctor. Then, something switched in my body and brain, and I stopped drinking water.
It wasn’t until I started working as a health coach two years ago and learned about the simple yet essential health benefits of drinking water that I started drinking 64 ounces of water a day. However, after finding this research study, I now don’t think that is enough water.
In last week’s post about the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in those with autoimmune disease, I came across this August 2022 study about hydration and the health benefits of drinking water:y
Middle-age high normal serum sodium as a risk factor for accelerated biological aging, chronic diseases, and premature mortality. Natalia I. Dmitrieva, Alessandro Gagarin, Delong Liu, Colin O. Wu, Manfred Boehm. Published: January 02, 2023
Two ScienceDaily publications also highlighted the study:
Research study methods and conclusions
In this study, researchers study the theory that optimal hydration may slow down the aging process in humans. Research has shown that in mice, lifelong water restriction shortens their lifespan and promotes degenerative changes.
The study followed 15,792 people aged 45-66 years. Both men and women were enrolled and followed up for more than 25 years.
Serum Sodium Levels
To monitor study participants’ hydration habits, the researchers used serum sodium levels found in regular bloodwork.
“Serum sodium and fluid intake can easily be assessed in clinical exams and help doctors identify patients who may benefit from learning about ways to stay hydrated,”Manfred Boehm, M.D.
The researchers associated serum sodium levels with the risk of premature mortality, rate of biological aging, and burden of chronic diseases. For example, a middle-aged person’s normal serum sodium is 135-146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L).
When we drink fewer fluids, our serum sodium levels increase.
The analysis showed that people whose serum sodium exceeded 142 had an increased risk of being biologically older, developing chronic diseases, and dying at a younger age.
Heart failure research
In a further study, researchers looked at serum sodium levels to precisely identify the increased risk of developing heart failure. Those in mid-life with serum sodium levels starting at 143 (mEq/L) had a 39% associated increased risk for developing heart failure compared to adults with lower levels. And for every 1 mEq/L increase, the likelihood of a participant developing heart failure increased by 5%.
Based on these data, the authors conclude serum sodium levels above 142 mEq/L in middle age are associated with increased risks for developing left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure later in life.
Chronic Disease research
Similarly, adults with serum sodium levels above 142 mEq/L had up to a 64% 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. The study’s results support the theory that optimal hydration can potentially be a systemic preventive approach that can prolong a disease-free lifespan.
“On the global level, this can have a big impact.” “Decreased body water content is the most common factor that increases serum sodium, which is why the results suggest that staying well hydrated may slow down the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease.”Dmitrieva
The researchers said a randomized, controlled trial would be necessary to confirm these preliminary findings. However, these early associations suggest good hydration may help prevent or slow the progression of changes within the heart that can lead to heart failure.
Dr. Dmitrieva noted that most people could safely increase their fluid intake to meet recommended levels, which can be done with water and other fluids, like juices or vegetables, and fruits with high water content. In contrast, others may need medical guidance due to underlying health conditions.
“The goal is to ensure patients are taking in enough fluids while assessing factors, like medications, that may lead to fluid loss. Doctors may also need to defer to a patient’s current treatment plan, such as limiting fluid intake for heart failure.”Manfred Boehm, M.D.
Their research really laid out the lifelong, life-extending, and life-sustaining health benefits of drinking water.
Set small attainable goals for your daily water intake
As I started my health coaching work, I began setting goals with my participants. For example, one of my goals was to drink more water because I knew I needed to work on this.
As I worked with the participants on essential healthy habits, about half of them wanted to work on their water intake too. I learned there were two kinds of people. First, those who said they always drink a lot of water because they need to stay hydrated, and second, those like me who said they barely drink water and know it was a problem. There were usually no in-between water drinkers.
To start, I needed to figure out how much water I consumed in one day. It turns out that I had less than half the recommended 64 ounces a day.
So, I began by setting a SMART goal of drinking 5 ounces of water every hour for at least 10 hours a day for four weeks. After four weeks, I increased it to 6 ounces of water for another four weeks. Finally, I purchased this bottle of 64 ounces and filled it up every morning to be sure I finished it throughout the day.
It probably seems like I am doing good with my water intake. However, drinking 64 ounces is still a struggle, but I consistently try. Sometimes, I’ll find myself trying to drink what I missed throughout the day after 7 PM, and we all know that causes us to get up in the middle of the night. Not good.
My next goal is to reach 92 ounces of water consumption a day. Because of that, I may find a bigger bottle or a different system.
Tips on drinking more water
To experience the life-extending and life-sustaining health benefits of drinking water, you’ll need to set a specific goal. I recommend you create a visual plan to track how much you drink a day. It’s easy to go throughout the day without realizing your water intake. So use these tips to set visual reminders to help you achieve your goal.
Tip #1: As mentioned above, fill up a water bottle like the one pictured above with a certain amount of water in ounces and drink it as many times as needed to meet your goal.
Tip #2: I asked my friend about her way of drinking enough water. Her suggestion was to take her pills with 8 to 12 ounces of water to be sure the medication residue didn’t cause esophagus irritation, something that happened to her sister.
Tip #3: Set a timer on your phone or another device to remind you it’s time to drink a specific amount of water and track it throughout the day.
Remember, fluids are essential for various bodily functions, including helping the heart pump blood efficiently, supporting blood vessel function, and orchestrating circulation. Your heart, lungs, kidneys, and cells will thank you for keeping them well watered by giving you a longer and healthier life.
Drink some water now!
NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Good hydration linked to healthy aging.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 January 2023. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/01/230102100941.htm.
NIH/National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “Good hydration may reduce long-term risks for heart failure: Serum sodium levels may help identify adults with a greater chance of experiencing heart disease.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 March 2022. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220329114701.htm.