Can Good Hydration Reduce Risk of Heart Failure?
NIH researchers have found that staying well hydrated may be associated with a reduced risk for developing heart failure. Their research, which appears in the European Heart Journal, suggests that consuming sufficient amounts of fluids throughout life not only supports essential body functioning, but may also reduce the risk of severe heart problems later on.
Heart failure, a chronic condition that develops when the heart does not pump enough blood for the body’s needs, affects more than 6.2 million Americans. It’s also more common among adults ages 65 and older.
After conducting preclinical research that suggested connections between dehydration and cardiac fibrosis, a hardening of the heart muscles, NHLBI researcher Dr. Natalia Dmitrieva and her team looked for similar associations in large-scale population studies.
To start, they analyzed data from more than 15,000 adults, ages 45-66, who enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study between 1987-89 and shared information from medical visits over a 25-year period.
In selecting participants for their retrospective review, the scientists focused on those whose hydration levels were within a normal range and who did not have diabetes, obesity or heart failure at the start of the study. Approximately 11,814 adults were included in the final analysis and, of those, researchers found 1,366 (11.56 percent) later developed heart failure.
To determine potential links with hydration, the team assessed the hydration status of the participants using several clinical measures.
Looking at levels of serum sodium, which increases as the body’s fluid levels decrease, was especially useful in helping to identify participants with an increased risk for developing heart failure. It also helped identify older adults at risk for developing both heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy, an enlargement and thickening of the heart.
In a cohort of about 5,000 adults ages 70 to 90, those with serum sodium levels of 142.5-143 mEq/L at middle age were 62 percent more likely to develop left ventricular hypertrophy. Serum sodium levels starting at 143 mEq/L correlated with a 102 percent increased risk for left ventricular hypertrophy and a 54 percent increased risk for heart failure.
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 NHLBI senior investigator Dr. Manfred Boehm, who leads the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine.
Fluids are essential for a range of bodily functions, including helping the heart pump blood efficiently, supporting blood vessel function and in orchestrating circulation. Yet many people take in far less than they need.
While fluid guidelines vary based on the body’s needs, researchers recommended a daily fluid intake of 6-8 cups of water for women and 8-12 cups for men.