Everyone knows that drinking plenty of water every day can improve your health in a myriad of ways, but here’s a lesser-known benefit: new research suggests that middle-aged adults can lower their long-term risk for heart failure by simply drinking enough water on a daily basis.
The finding follows an analysis that stacked heart health up against blood salt levels — an indicator for overall fluid intake — among nearly 16,000 middle-aged men and women over a 25-year period.
“The importance of hydration has been on the cardiovascular radar for a long time,” notes study author Natalia Dmitrieva, a senior researcher with the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
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How does water impact your heart?
Dmitrieva says it has to do with the way the lack of liquid intake can affect an individual’s sodium (salt) balance, hormone levels and kidney function in ways that may ultimately undermine proper heart function.
Specifically, she cites problems that can begin when a lack of fluid intake ends up driving a person’s blood salt levels above a specific threshold (namely, 142 millimoles per liter [mmol/L]).
For their study, Dmitrieva and her colleagues used that threshold as a reliable indicator of an individual’s overall hydration status, even though by current standards that level would typically be deemed to be within the “normal range” for blood sodium.
But the study team settled on that trigger point because when salt levels exceed that, a “hormone is secreted from the brain. This hormone acts on the kidney to activate water preservation mechanisms,” Dmitrieva shares.
The result: urine excretion drops, setting in motion a spike in high blood pressure risk.
And elevated blood pressure isn’t the only cardiovascular threat posed by dehydration, she notes. Because over time, insufficient fluid intake can also directly undermine the cellular integrity of the heart muscle itself.
But the good news is that the “study suggests that maintaining good hydration can prevent or at least slow down the