Adults who aren’t adequately hydrated may age faster, face a higher risk of chronic disease and be more likely to die younger than those who stay well hydrated, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health.

The resultspublished Monday, are based on data collected over 25 years from more than 11,000 adults in the US. Participants attended their first medical visits between ages 45 and 66, then returned for follow-up between ages 70 and 90. .

The researchers looked at the participants’ blood sodium levels as an indicator of hydration, because higher concentrations are a sign that they probably weren’t consuming enough fluids. The researchers found that participants with high blood sodium levels aged physiologically faster than those with lower levels, which was reflected in health markers associated with aging, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. .

All study participants had blood sodium concentrations considered to be within the normal range: 135 to 146 millimoles per liter. But the findings suggested that people with levels at the high end of that normal range, above 144 millimoles per liter, were 50% more likely to show signs of physical aging beyond what would be expected for their age at compared to people with lower blood sodium levels. levels They also had an approximately 20% increased risk of premature death.

Even people with blood sodium levels above 142 millimoles per liter were at increased risk of developing certain chronic diseases, including heart failure, stroke, chronic lung disease, diabetes and dementia, the study found.

«The risk of developing these diseases increases as we age and accumulate damage to various tissues in the body,» one of the study authors, Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, said in an email. the NIH.

by Dmitrieva previous investigation similarly found that a higher level of sodium in the blood may be a risk factor for heart failure.

Just as regular physical activity and proper nutrition are considered part of a healthy lifestyle, he said, «Emerging evidence from our and other studies indicates that adding consistent good hydration to these healthy lifestyle choices may further slow down the aging process».

But the study authors cautioned that more research is needed to determine whether good hydration can help slow aging, prevent disease or prolong life.

The relationship between fluid drinking and age-related chronic diseases remains «highly speculative,» said Dr. Lawrence Appel, director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research at Johns Hopkins University.

The NIH study «does not prove that drinking more water prevents chronic disease,» he said.

Appel said that people would likely need much higher levels of sodium in their blood — 150 millimoles per liter or higher, the kind of dehydration one might experience during an extreme heat wave — to see negative health outcomes as a result.

He also cautioned that many factors besides hydration can influence a person’s blood sodium level, such as taking diuretics, also known as diuretics, for high blood pressure. Some people with neurological problems or other disabilities may also have higher-than-average blood sodium levels, Dr. Mitchell Rosner, chair of the University of Virginia Department of Medicine, said in an email.

Dehydration is not a common problem

Staying hydrated has known health benefits. It can help people avoid joint pain and maintain normal body temperature, and may prevent constipation or kidney stones, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Asher Rosinger, director of the Water, Health and Nutrition Laboratory at Penn State College of Health and Human Development, said chronic dehydration is more likely to speed up the aging process than good hydration can help slow it down.

Proper hydration «will ensure that the kidneys are working properly and that no additional stress is placed on the body physiologically,» he said in an email.

If a person doesn’t drink enough water and instead consumes sugary drinks, Rosinger added, the risk of cognitive problems, urinary tract infections, kidney stones and kidney damage increases.

The National Academies of Medicine recommend six to nine 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day for women and eight to 12 for men. Dmitrieva said those recommendations are ideal for the average person, and Rosner also found the guidelines reasonable. But both experts noted that people have different hydration needs depending on their activity levels and the outside environment.

Meanwhile, Appel said the traditional recommendation to drink about eight glasses of water a day «isn’t really based on any scientific evidence.» Their investigate has found that people’s normal drinking behavior usually leads to adequate hydration.

«Dehydration in the general population is simply not a common problem,» he said.

The average American adult drinks more than five glasses of water a day, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vegetables and fruits with high water content, such as watermelon, celery, and cucumbers, can also help with hydration. Dmitrieva said mineral water and unsweetened tea also provide good hydration.

As Rosner said, «Water is simply the best, but other drinks are fine in moderation.»