Still Not Drinking Enough Water? It Could Have Serious Health Ramifications, Study Finds

Do you drink enough water? If you’re anything like me, you’d sooner reach for a second (or third) cup of coffee over a tall, cold glass of H20. There’s no shame in the caffeination game, but adequate hydration is still important. In fact, not drinking enough water may increase your likelihood of dying at a younger age or developing certain chronic illnesses, new research suggests.

In a study published earlier this week, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explored whether poor hydration habits were linked to any serious ailments. Their findings are based on health data from 11,000 American adults collected over the span of more than 25 years. Data were first collected when participants were 45–66 years old, and again during follow-up doctor’s visits from ages 70–90.

To gauge participants’ hydration levels, researchers examined the sodium levels in their blood. Per NBC News, elevated sodium levels are a common indication that a person isn’t drinking enough water. A normal blood sodium range is 135 to 146 millimoles per liter. All participants had blood sodium levels within this range, although some were higher than others.

What researchers found was illuminating: Across the board, people with sodium levels at the high end of that range were 50 percent more likely to exhibit signs of early aging than those with normal bloodwork. They were also 20 percent more likely to die prematurely, and at a higher risk of developing certain chronic diseases, including heart failure, diabetes, lung disease, and dementia.

“Emerging evidence from our and other studies indicate that adding consistent good hydration to these healthy lifestyle choices [physical exercise and proper nutrition] may slow down the aging process even more,” Natalia Dmitrieva, a researcher at the NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, told NBC News.

Although they were able to establish these links, researchers warned that further study is needed in this area. It is still unclear whether adequate hydration can prevent early aging, premature death, or chronic disease.

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Full-blown cases of dehydration are not as common as people may think. Still, drinking an adequate amount of water each day is vital for your mental and physical health. Consider this a sobering reminder.

Each person’s hydration needs vary depending on a range of factors, but generally speaking, 64 ounces (eight cups) of water per day is a good place to start. You may want to up your water intake if you are sick, pregnant or breastfeeding, or partaking in vigorous exercise.

There are plenty of non-water beverages and foods that can contribute to your daily water intake. These include sparkling water, herbal tea, and water-rich fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, celery, or cucumbers.

Before you go, check out these inspiring quotes about healthy attitudes toward food:

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