Finding and implementing preventive measures that can slow down the aging process is currently recognized as a major challenge of preventive medicine to combat the epidemic of age-dependent chronic diseases that is emerging as a result of a rapidly aging world population. Disparities in the pace of biological aging are already detectable at midlife indicating that preventive measures that can be applied early in life would be most effective to slow down the aging processes and decrease the burden of chronic diseases.
Using health data gathered from 11,255 adults over a 30-year period, researchers analyzed links between serum sodium levels , which go up when fluid intake goes down, and various indicators of health. They found that adults with serum sodium levels at the higher end of a normal range were more likely to develop chronic conditions and show signs of advanced biological aging than those with serum sodium levels in the medium ranges. Adults with higher levels were also more likely to die at a younger age.
Good hydration linked to healthy aging
For this latest analysis, researchers assessed information study participants shared during five medical visits — the first two when they were in their 50s, and the last when they were between ages 70-90. To allow for a fair comparison between how hydration correlated with health outcomes, researchers excluded adults who had high levels of serum sodium at baseline check-ins or with underlying conditions, like obesity, that could affect serum sodium levels.
They then evaluated how serum sodium levels correlated with biological aging, which was assessed through 15 health markers. This included factors, such as systolic blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, which provided insight about how well each person’s cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, renal, and immune system was functioning. They also adjusted for factors, like age, race, biological sex, smoking status, and hypertension.
They found that adults with higher levels of normal serum sodium, with normal ranges falling between 135-146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L), were more likely to show signs of faster biological aging. This was based on indicators like metabolic and cardiovascular health, lung function, and inflammation. For example, adults with serum sodium levels above 142 mEq/L had a 10-15% associated increased odds of being biologically older than their chronological age compared to ranges between 137-142 mEq/L, while levels above 144 mEq/L correlated with a 50% increase. Likewise, levels of 144.5-146 mEq/L were associated with a 21% increased risk of premature death compared to ranges between 137-142 mEq/L.
Similarly, adults with serum sodium levels above 142 mEq/L had up to a 64% increased associated risk for developing chronic diseases like heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation and peripheral artery disease, as well as chronic lung disease, diabetes, and dementia. Conversely, adults with serum sodium levels between 138-140 mEq/L had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease.
The findings don’t prove a causal effect, the researchers noted. Randomized, controlled trials are necessary to determine if optimal hydration can promote healthy aging, prevent disease, and lead to a longer life. However, the associations can still inform clinical practice and guide personal health behavior.
Decreased body water content is the most common factor that increases serum sodium, which is why the results suggest that staying well hydrated may slow down the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease.
Natalia I. Dmitrieva, Alessandro Gagarin, Delong Liu, Colin O. Wu, Manfred Boehm. Middle-age high normal serum sodium as a risk factor for accelerated biological aging, chronic diseases, and premature mortality. eBioMedicine, January 2 2023 . Retrieved from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(22)00586-2/fulltext
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