The importance of staying hydrated for heart health

The importance of staying hydrated for heart health
© iStock/Hiraman

Staying hydrated may be associated with a reduced risk of developing heart failure, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

Drinking fluids is important to maintain bodily functions. Staying hydrated promotes good health overall and now researchers have discovered the impact of consuming enough fluids throughout life on the risk of severe heart problems in the future.

Heart failure is a chronic condition that develops when the heart does not pump enough blood for the body’s needs. It is most common among adults aged 65 and over.

“Similar to reducing salt intake, drinking enough water and staying hydrated are ways to support our hearts and may help reduce long-term risks for heart disease,” said Natalia Dmitrieva, PhD, the lead study author and a researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH.

The findings were published in the European Heart Journal.

Staying hydrated and heart health

The research team carried out preclinical research that suggested a link between dehydration and cardiac fibrosis, a hardening of the heart muscles. To expand their findings further, they looked for similar associations in large-scale population studies, analysing data from more than 15,000 adults aged 45-66 who enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study between 1987-1989 and shared information from medical visits over 25 years.

When selecting participants to respectively review the data, the researchers focussed on 11,814 participants who stayed well hydrated and did not have diabetes, obesity or heart failure when the study commenced. They found within this group, 1,366 later developed heart failure.

The team assessed how hydrated the participants were by analysing serum sodium levels which increases when fluid levels decrease. This can be a useful marker for identifying individuals at risk of heart failure.

The importance of serum sodium levels

In a cohort of around 5,000 adults aged 70-90, those with serum sodium levels of 142.5-143 mEq/L at middle age were 62% more likely to develop left ventricular hypertrophy. Serum sodium levels starting at 143 mEq/L correlated with a 102% increased risk for left ventricular hypertrophy and a 54% increased risk for heart failure.

The researcher’s concluded that serum sodium levels above 142 mEq/L in middle age are associated with increased risks of developing left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure later in life. This illuminates the importance of staying hydrated throughout life to minimise the risk of heart failure.

A randomised, controlled trial will be necessary to confirm these preliminary findings, the researchers said. However, these early associations suggest good hydration may help prevent or slow the progression of changes within the heart that can lead to heart failure.

“Serum sodium and fluid intake can easily be assessed in clinical exams and help doctors identify patients who may benefit from learning about ways to stay hydrated,” said Manfred Boehm, MD, who leads the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine.

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