Research such as this suggests that staying at prime hydration levels may be key to a slower aging process
“Drink more water.” This advice has long been echoed by parents and health care providers alike. Yet, a 2020 study found that only 35.3% of young adults meet the adequate prime hydration fluid intake recommendations provided by the National Academy of Medicine. What are the consequences of dodging this advice? New research suggests that it may lead to a faster aging process.
Hydration and accelerated biological aging
On Jan. 2, 2023, eBioMedicine—part of The Lancet Discovery Science—published a cohort analysis of 15,752 individuals aged 45-66. Researchers used the subjects’ serum sodium levels to help determine their hydration habits. The subjects’ biological ages were also calculated using age-dependent biomarkers, with researchers further assessing their risk of chronic disease or dying prematurely.
After evaluating the data, it was noted that people with serum sodium levels greater than 142 mmol/l had a 39% greater risk of developing a chronic disease. They also had a 50% greater likelihood of their biological age being higher than their chronological age. In subjects with serum sodium levels over 144 mmol/l, their risk of dying prematurely was 21% higher.
While more studies are needed to better understand the connection between hydration and aging, research such as this suggests that staying at prime hydration levels may be key to a slower aging process.
Other consequences of chronic dehydration
Inadequate hydration can lead to other effects as well. Headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps can all be signs of dehydration. In athletes, poor hydration strategies can appear via reduced performance and decreased cardiovascular function.
Not getting enough water can also make some health conditions worse. For instance, one piece of research linked even mild dehydration with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease progression. The American Heart Association warns that being dehydrated increases a person’s risk of blood clots.
Having an inadequate water intake can have cognitive effects as well. According to a 2019 article published in the International Journal of Health Governance, there is a link between dehydration and cognitive impairment, impacting functions that are both basic and higher order. Yet, this relationship is largely under-documented and lacks mention in most intake guidelines.
Water intake recommendations: one size fits all?
The National Academy of Sciences has set the adequate intake (AI) for men at 3.7 liters, which equates to roughly 15.5 cups per day. The AI for women is 2.7 liters, or around 11.5 cups daily. Those who are physically active or spend time in hot environments need more. Dietary foods supply approximately 19% of the total intake. This leaves the remaining 81% to be met with fluids.
Others suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for adequate water intake. The reason is that a person’s fluid needs can vary based on a variety of factors. According to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, this makes hydration assessment methods a better gauge of a person’s desired intake.
Determining prime hydration levels and needs
Several tests can be conducted to help determine if a person’s hydration levels are adequate or if they need to be adjusted. Plasma sodium concentration is one option. So too is testing a patient’s blood urea nitrogen. The problem with tests such as these is that they can be costly and results may not be received for days.
Instead, patients can better understand their hydration status by monitoring the color of their urine. If it is dark, this suggests that they need to drink more water (or they have reduced kidney function). If their urine is clearer in color, this is a sign that they may be getting the amount of water their body needs to function effectively.
Ways to increase water intake
Drinking water regularly throughout the day is one way that patients can reach their prime hydration level. If they don’t like its bland taste, adding slices of cucumber or chunks of melon can help enhance its flavor.
Some foods also contain a lot of water, so eating more of them can help patients meet their intake recommendations. Melons, berries, and pineapples are all rich in water. So too are cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and celery.