Staying hydrated cuts risk of heart problems: Here’s how much water you should drink daily

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BETHESDA, Md. — It’s no secret that drinking lots of water and staying hydrated is essential for robust, strong health in general. Now, researchers from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports consistently staying well-hydrated may also lower your risk for heart failure.

We’re not just talking about a single day or week of extra H2O. Scientists clarify that a lifetime’s worth of hydration not only supports overall essential body functioning but also appears to reduce one’s risk of developing any severe heart problems in the future.

Heart failure, which refers to when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs, impacts over 6.2 million Americans – just over two percent of the entire U.S. population. It is also more common in older adults (ages 65+).

“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,” says lead study author Natalia Dmitrieva, Ph.D., a researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, in a media release.

Serum sodium levels are the key

Initially, a round of preclinical research pointed to a connection between dehydration and cardiac fibrosis (the hardening of the heart’s muscles). So, study authors decided to search for similar associations across various large-scale population studies. This process began with a dataset encompassing over 15,000 adults (ages 45-66). All of those individuals had signed up for the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study between 1987 and 1989. Since then, they periodically shared information from medical visits over a 25-year period.

Study authors placed special emphasis on adults who displayed healthy hydration levels and did not have heart failure, diabetes, or obesity at the start of the research period. That resulted in about 11,814 adults taking part in the final analysis. Among that group, 11.56 percent (1,366) ended up developing a form of heart failure.

The team measured “hydration status” among participants via several clinical measures, such as serum sodium levels, which tend to increase as the body’s fluid levels decrease. Researchers report that keeping track of serum sodium levels proved quite useful in terms of identifying those at an increased risk of heart failure. Levels of serum sodium also helped zero in on older adults at risk of both heart failure and left ventricular hypertrophy (enlargement and thickening of the heart).

More specifically, adults with serum sodium levels beginning around 143 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) in middle age had a 39 percent associated increased risk of heart failure in comparison to others with lower levels. Doctors consider a normal range of serum sodium to be 135-146 mEq/L. Moreover, for every single 1 mEq/L increase in serum sodium within the normal range of 135-146 mEq/L, the chances of a person developing heart failure increased by a full five percent.

How many cups of water do you need?

Additionally, among a group of 5,000 older adults (ages 70-90), individuals with serum sodium levels measuring 142.5-143 mEq/L during middle age were 62 percent more at risk of developing left ventricular hypertrophy. Serum sodium levels starting at 143 mEq/L also correlated with an astounding 102 percent increase in left ventricular hypertrophy risk and a 54 percent jump in heart failure risk.

With all of these findings in hand, the research team concludes a serum sodium level above 142 mEq/L in middle age leads to an elevated risk of both left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure later on in life.

Moving forward, the research team says a randomized, controlled trial is needed to confirm these promising but ultimately preliminary results. Still, the findings speak for themselves: Drink more water more often and your heart will thank you in the long run.

“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,” adds Manfred Boehm, M.D., who leads the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine.

For reference, study authors generally recommend that adult men drink eight to 12 cups (2-3 liters) of water daily. Women should consume at least six to eight cups (1.5-2.1 liters) on a daily basis.

The study is published in the European Heart Journal.


  1. Drinking from plastic bottles increases the plastic micro particles in ones body greatly. Very unhealthy to show that in a picture about water consumption-also bad for the planet.

  2. 12 cups a day. Say hello to your new best friends… “rest stops”, bathrooms, trees, urinals, and gas stations with locked doors (the norm these days)…
    Plus attend no films, games, or gatherings that proceed more than 90 minutes without a break.

  3. This may be problematic. That much water can also wash out vitamins and minerals. That, and it could stress the kidneys. Constipation might be a result of excess water, as it purified Water leaches potassium from the body. Also, this study doesn’t take into account the amounts of water you consume through food. Sorry. I’m not running out and starting up with those amounts of water.

    1. Hi David, every point you raise is incorrect or misleading. From the top: Interestingly, the body adjusts very well to higher amounts of water, quickly adapting to maintain adequate vitamin and mineral levels (works best if the water is NOT mineral-free distilled). And, that high level of hydration is beneficial to the kidneys unless someone is in the final stages of kidney disease. Constipation is generally relived with more water intake, not made worse. High amounts of water in food are found in fruits and vegetables, but studies show most of us eat 1/4 to 1/3 the amount we need, so the water in food is not a big factor for most of us. Drink up! -Eric, RN

  4. If you drink pH Balanced water, there will be no danger of washing minerals out… nutrients heh…. no nutrients in our foods anyway. One gallon a day will give you amazing energy… water is fuel; food is a building block. //No fresh water, no new blood//No fresh water, no oxygen to cells and organs//

  5. What is with these videos? The presenter is grating. And why insert the “sexy blonde” in a bra in the middle of the video about drinking more water? What year are we living in? Who is your audience? It’s just strange.

  6. Not sure why you are declining to publish my comment. Trying again here: What is going on with these videos? The presenter is incredibly grating. Why insert a “hot blonde” in a bra into the middle of a video about the effects of drinking water on heart failure? Who is your audience? What year are we living in? It’s very strange. The articles on Study Finds are interesting, but the videos are a jarring contrast to the content.

  7. Obviously, you completely missed the reference that men who were well hydrated were found to be much more attractive to the women represented by the model. Surely you are aware that men have thoughts about the only opposing sex, averaging one every 137 seconds.
    How better to reach a target audience???

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