January 17, 2016

Low Bicarbonate Levels Linked to Early Death In Healthy Seniors

Healthy Older People are at high risk of Death if Low Bicarbonate
Elderly people who are healthy but who also have low blood levels of bicarbonate are at very high risk for premature death, according to a new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN)

Bicarbonate, with fruits and vegetables as great natural sources, is a well-established constituent of the body that plays an important role in maintaining the body's pH balance.

To keep the body's pH in a healthy range so that cells and organs can work properly, the kidneys and lungs work together by varying the levels of bicarbonate (a base) and carbon dioxide (an acid) in the blood. Critically ill patients with severe acid-base abnormalities have a very low likelihood of surviving their illness, but it's unclear whether more subtle changes in the body's acid-base status have an effect on the longevity of relatively healthy older people.

Researchers looked at nearly 2,300 Americans, ages 70 to 97, who were followed for an average of just over 10 years. During that time, those who were healthy and had normal or high bicarbonate levels had a similar risk of dying, but those with low bicarbonate levels had a 24 percent increased risk of death.

The study was published online January 14 before print in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

"What we found was that generally healthy older people with low levels of bicarbonate had a higher risk of death," study author Dr. Kalani Raphael, from the University of Utah, said in a journal news release. "Adding the pH measurement into the equation didn't change the results, which is important because pH is not routinely measured.

The findings suggest that blood marker (bicarbonate levels in the blood) are an important health indicator and that future studies should examine the possibility of increasing bicarbonate levels so as to prolong life.

While the study found a link between bicarbonate levels and risk of death, it didn't prove cause-and-effect.

Journal Reference:
1). K. L. Raphael et al. Bicarbonate Concentration, Acid-Base Status, and Mortality in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 2016; DOI: 10.2215/CJN.06200615

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