Drink enough water - or be at risk for this dangerous disease

New research has found that drinking enough water is not only effective in preventing dehydration, but also in lowering the risk of developing heart failure.

 Water pitcher (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Water pitcher
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

We all know that drinking water is very important for our overall health to prevent dehydration, but new research has found that it can also lower the risk of developing heart failure, a chronic condition that develops when the heart doesn’t pump enough blood for the body's needs. Heart failure affects just over 2% of the population, and one in ten people over the age of 65 suffers from this condition.

The findings of a study published in the European Heart Journal suggest that consuming adequate amounts of fluids throughout life not only supports the vital function of the body, but may also reduce the risk of serious heart problems in the future.

How was the study conducted? 

"Similar to reducing salt intake, drinking enough water and maintaining moisture in the body will support our heart and may help reduce the long-term risks of heart disease," said Dr. Natalia Dmitriev, lead study author and researcher in the Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

After conducting a preclinical study that suggested a link between dehydration and fibrosis of the heart muscle, Dr. Dmitriev and colleagues looked for similar links in large-scale population-based studies. To begin, they analyzed data from more than 15,000 adults, ages 45-66, enrolled in a risk study of atherosclerosis from 1987-89 and shared information from medical visits over a 25-year period.

In selecting participants, researchers focused on those whose hydration levels were within the normal range and who didn’t have diabetes, obesity or heart failure at the start of the study. Some 11,814 adults were included in the final analysis, and of those, 1,366 (11.56%)  later developed heart failure.

Water Drop Illustrative (credit: Courtesy)Water Drop Illustrative (credit: Courtesy)

How much water should you drink?

To assess the potential connection between heart condition and adequate drinking, staff assessed participants' hydration status using various clinical measurements. Looking at serum sodium levels, which rise as body fluids fall, has been particularly useful in helping identify participants with an increased risk of developing heart failure. It also helped to identify adults with an increased risk of developing both heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy, enlargement and thickening of the heart.

A randomized, controlled trial is now needed to confirm these preliminary findings, researchers said. However, these early findings suggest that drinking enough water may help prevent or slow down the progression of changes within the heart that can lead to heart failure.

Fluids, as mentioned, are essential for a variety of bodily functions, including helping the heart to pump blood efficiently, and supporting vascular function and circulatory activity. But many people consume much less than they need, it was reported. While guidelines vary according to bodily needs, researchers recommended daily fluid intake of 6-8 cups (1.5-2 liters) for women and 8-12 cups (2-3 liters) for men.