A Cardiologist Explains Research on Hydration and Heart Health

You’re undoubtedly well aware that staying hydrated is critical to our overall health. Water makes up roughly 60% of our bodies, so staying hydrated is important for breathing, moving, digesting, and staying alive. Despite the fact that we all know how important water is and the growing popularity of fancy water bottles, many of us do not drink enough water on a daily basis. Worse, chronic dehydration is rather frequent, particularly among the elderly, and new evidence reveals that hydration and heart health are linked.

Before we get into how hydration affects overall heart health, let’s establish what we mean by hydration. If you were taught that you should drink eight ounces of water every day, you’ll be relieved to find that hydration is a little more complicated. To begin with, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have any “plain water” daily recommendations—that is, there is no set volume of water that you should pour into a glass and drink every day. However, based on all of the foods and beverages you consume, there are daily fluid intake recommendations. Plus, there’s more. These suggestions aren’t for everyone. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, they are dependent on your age, gender, amount of activity, and environment (NASM).

With this in mind, the NASM recommends that males drink 16 cups of coffee per day and women drink roughly 12 cups. Before you get too worked up, remember that your hydration is supposed to come from everything you eat and drink throughout the day. According to the NASM, foods (such as fruits and vegetables) will account for around 20% of your total intake, while beverages will account for the remaining 80%. (yes, your caffeine fix counts).

Whether you get your water from melons or a can of La Croix, one thing is certain: “Consuming a healthy amount of water is necessary for life,” says Jennifer Haythe, MD, associate professor of medicine and co-director of Columbia University Women’s Heart Center. She is quick to point out, however, that “many persons do not continuously follow these advice throughout their lives.”

It’s common knowledge that staying hydrated is critical to our overall health. Dehydration, on the other hand, can induce dizziness, brain fog, lethargy, heatstroke, kidney problems, and even constipation, according to the CDC. As if that wasn’t bad enough, new research has linked chronic dehydration to heart failure. According to Dr. Haythe, researchers recently reported at the European Society of Cardiology and looked at salt levels in 15,792 middle-aged patients. She explains that they utilised sodium as a marker or ‘hydration habits’ and discovered a link between those with greater sodium levels (or insufficient hydration) and heart failure 25 years later. This shows that consuming a little more water could help prevent some diseases.

However, there are several important considerations to consider before increasing your water intake, according to Dr. Haythe. “Because this was not a randomised, prospective, or controlled trial, causality cannot be determined,” states the author “she explains. “Only a connection can be made.” To put it another way, while dehydration is linked to heart failure, we don’t know if it’s the cause. Dr. Haythe further advises that anyone with a heart disease should consult their doctor before making any changes to their water intake. “It’s critical to remember that once patients acquire heart failure, their fluid consumption must be carefully monitored by a physician, and this [knowledge] should not encourage patients with current heart issues to drink more water,” she says.

Finally, new research confirms what many of us already know: being hydrated is beneficial to your health. And, before you go buying new coloured canteens and setting ‘water’ alarms, keep in mind that hydration can also come from eating. Watermelon, cucumbers, celery, and other hydrating foods are good choices.

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