H20 for healthy aging | NIH MedlinePlus Magazine


Water is essential for just about every function in our bodies, from keeping our organs working properly to regulating our body temperature. Losing more water than we take in can lead to dehydration, which happens when your body doesn’t have enough fluid to function properly. 

Our bodies are constantly losing fluids. Sweating during exercise or in hot weather, dealing with an illness such as diarrhea or vomiting, and even breathing and going to the bathroom all cause our bodies to lose water. And as we age, our bodies don’t retain fluids as well. We may also become less aware of our thirst. This makes staying hydrated even more important.  

But here’s a splash of good news! A study from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) found that people who stay hydrated throughout their lives are less likely to develop chronic diseases and may even live longer, healthier lives. 

Linking hydration to long-term health

The research was part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, which investigates heart health in adults living in different U.S. communities. The researchers tracked the health of more than 11,000 adults for 30 years. This included measuring levels of blood sodium, an electrolyte that helps regulate fluids in the body. When we’re dehydrated, our blood sodium levels tend to go up.

Researchers found that people with higher sodium levels were more likely to develop chronic diseases (such as heart failure, diabetes, and dementia) later in life. They also tended to show more signs of advanced biological aging, such as raised systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar—signs that indicate how well your body is functioning. These participants were more likely to die at younger ages, but those who stayed well hydrated developed fewer chronic health conditions and tended to live longer.

Will you live longer if you drink more water? 

Not necessarily. While these findings show a link between staying hydrated and healthy aging, they don’t prove cause and effect. We need more research to know whether good hydration actually prevents disease or extends your life. In the meantime, this study is a good reminder that staying hydrated is a simple (but impactful!) way you can invest in your health and well-being. 

How much fluid should you drink? 

It depends on factors like your age, activity level, and climate. But a good general rule is to aim for about eight glasses of fluids every day. Water is the best choice, but fluids from other sources (such as juices, herbal teas, and fruits and vegetables with high water content) can also help you stay hydrated. 

Learn more about hydrating for health, including tips for staying hydrated. 


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