Poor Hydration May Lead to Chronic Disease & Premature Aging

by Valerie Demetros

Just as regular physical activity and proper nutrition are considered essential to a healthy lifestyle, emerging evidence indicates that consistent hydration may prevent chronic disease and slow down the aging process.

It is already a fact that good hydration is important for overall health and can prevent headaches, regulate body temperature, prevent infections and keep your organs functioning properly. Staying hydrated can also improve your sleep and mood.

A new study from the National Institutes of Health has concluded that adults who aren’t sufficiently hydrated may age faster, face a higher risk of chronic diseases and may die younger than those who stay well-hydrated.

The results are based on data collected for over 25 years from more than 11,000 adults in the U.S. Participants attended their first medical visits at ages 45 to 66 and returned at ages 70 to 90.

Levels of serum sodium in the body are an indicator of hydration, and researchers found that higher levels of serum sodium during middle age may contribute to the development of chronic disease and possibly premature death.

The most common cause for high sodium levels is insufficient water intake. Some studies have shown that those with low serum sodium levels had up to a 50% increased risk of being older than their chronological age.

The National Academies of Medicine recommends six to nine 8-ounce cups of fluid per day for women and eight to 12 for men. Of course, those recommendations are for the average person. Everyone has different needs depending on activity level, environment and health.

Experts suggest choosing plain water or adding cucumber, lemon or lime as your main source of hydration for optimal heart health.

Water-rich foods, in which 90% or more of their content is water, also are good options. Vegetables and fruits with high water contents like watermelon, celery and cucumbers can help with hydration, as well as seltzer and unsweetened tea.

Be aware that if people with heart failure drink too much water, it can cause fluid buildup in the body and contribute to shortness of breath. People with kidney failure may also drink less water because their kidneys are less equipped to maintain a balance of fluid in their bodies.

In contrast, some individuals may require more water, such as those with a higher body mass index (BMI), those out in the heat or athletes in training.

Oral rehydration involves more than just drinking water. When people exert themselves, they also lose sugars and electrolytes, which need to be replenished.

In addition to water and sports drinks, drink coconut water, pickle juice, electrolyte-infused waters or electrolyte tablets, homemade electrolyte drinks, smoothies, fruit juices or even Pedialyte.

For older people, hydration is essential since they tend to drink less because the thirst sensation deteriorates as you age. The best way to adequately hydrate and prevent chronic illness and aging is to keep track of your intake.

And if you’re out in the sun or over-exerting yourself, stay vigilant for such signs of dehydration as reduced sweat response, mental status changes and decreased or absent urine output.