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Research: Staying hydrated reduces heart health risks

Good hydration may help prevent or slow the progression of changes within the heart that can lead to heart failure.

A health care worker. - © AFP
A health care worker. - © AFP

Take a sip of water and read on. New research reveals that good hydration may reduce long-term risks for heart failure. This relates to keeping serum sodium levels in balance and understanding these levels in more detail may help identify adults with a greater chance of experiencing heart disease.

Heart failure is a major public health problem. There are thought to be six million adults in the U.S. alone are living with heart disease (as estimated in the 2021 American Heart Association statistical update).

The research from the U.S. The Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute) finds that staying well-hydrated has an association with a reduced risk for developing heart failure.

The analysis of the data indicates that consuming sufficient amounts of fluids throughout life not only supports essential body functioning; it additionally appears to reduce the risk of severe heart problems in the future.

The data is based on a review of some 15,000 adults, aged between 45 and 66 years old, who enrolled in the U.S. Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study between 1987-1989. The individuals agreed to share their personal information from medical visits over a 25-year period.

What was important were the levels of serum sodium. This increases as the body’s fluid levels decrease. This measure was found to be especially important for helping to identify participants with an increased risk for developing heart failure.

The levels also helped identify older adults with an increased risk for developing both heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy (an enlargement and thickening of the heart).

The research is also based on animal studies. Here, using a mouse model, the effect of chronic hypohydration was induced through lifelong water restriction. This lifestyle was shown to promote cardiac fibrosis.

Hypohydration is the end result of a process involving the uncompensated loss of body water. This situation occurs when the fluid intake does not match the amount of water lost from the body through sweat.

With hypohydration, the condition was shown to elevate serum sodium. This has led the research to consider the association of serum sodium at middle age as a measure of hydration habits with risk to develop heart failure.

The medical concision is that, similar to reducing salt intake, drinking sufficient water and keeping hydrated are optimal ways to support your heart and this practice may help reduce long-term risks for heart disease.

In terms of how much fluid to intake each day, the level will vary based on the body’s needs. However, the researchers recommended a daily fluid intake of 6-8 cups (1.5-2.1 litres) for women and 8-12 cups (2-3 litres) for men each day.

Given the increasing prevalence of heart failure, partly a reflection of the ageing population in high income societies, the timely identification of modifiable risk factors is important to help pinpoint those at greater risk.

The research appears in the European Heart Journal, where the research paper is titled “Middle age serum sodium levels in the upper part of normal range and risk of heart failure.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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