It’s no secret that water possesses so many health benefits. But new research has uncovered what's been overlooked about water’s effect on aging.

A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in the journal eBioMedicine Monday reported the risks associated with serum sodium levels in middle-aged people. The level shoots up when fluid or water intake goes down. Hence, hydration is seen as an indicator of health in this scenario.

The researchers sought to establish a correlation between hydration and the aging process in humans after reviewing previous mouse studies that shed light on how water restriction shortened the lifespan and promoted degenerative changes in mice.

The team performed a cohort analysis of data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study with middle-aged people (45-66 years old) and its 25 years follow-up. To better analyze the hydration habits of the participants, they turned their attention to serum sodium. Age-dependent biomarkers and chronic disease risks were used to calculate biological age.

After analyzing data from 11,255 adults, the researchers found that those with serum sodium levels at the higher end of the normal range likely developed chronic conditions and showed advanced aging compared to those with serum sodium levels within the normal range. They also found that those with higher serum sodium levels were more likely to die younger.

“The results suggest that proper hydration may slow down aging and prolong a disease-free life,” study author Natalia Dmitrieva, Ph.D., a researcher in the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), said, as per Neuroscience News.

“On the global level, this can have a big impact. Decreased body water content is the most common factor that increases serum sodium, which is why the results suggest that staying well hydrated may slow down the aging process and prevent or delay chronic disease,” she added.

Based on their research, participants who experienced advanced aging due to poor hydration had a 65% higher risk of developing a plethora of heart problems and health conditions, including heart failure, peripheral artery disease, atrial fibrillation, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease and dementia.

“This study adds observational evidence that reinforces the potential long-term benefits of improved hydration on reductions in long-term health outcomes, including mortality,” Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the study, told CNN via email.

The study was funded by the Intramural Research Program of NHLBI, the NIH and the Department of Health and Human Services.