Low bicarbonate levels in older people’s blood may increase their risk of early death, according to a new study.
In the ten-year study – published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology – the researchers looked at almost three thousand people ages seventy to seventy-nine, who were relatively healthy. About half of them died from natural causes over the study period.
Of the study participants, the ones who had low levels of bicarbonate in their blood were about twenty-five percent more likely to die during the study period, compared with those with normal or high bicarbonate levels.
Bicarbonate (a base) regulates the pH level of the blood and it is a natural byproduct of the body’s metabolism. It keeps the blood at a neutral pH by countering acidic byproducts and carbon dioxide (CO2).
The study led by Dr. Kalani Raphael – a board certified nephrologist in Salt Lake City, Utah who is also affiliated with University of Utah Health Care and George E Wahlen VA Medical Center – found an association and not a cause-and-effect relationship, between the risk of premature death and low levels of bicarbonate in the blood.
It may be that the bicarbonate levels actually indicated another medial problem that eventually led to the people’s deaths, the researchers said. For instance, previous studies have shown that declining kidney function was linked with low bicarbonate levels. According to Dr. Raphael, loss of muscle mass and bone mineral, as well as inflammation are also associated with low bicarbonate levels.
Dr. Michael Emmett, the chief of internal medicine at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, noted that kidney function decreases with age, which means that the body has a harder time excreting acid loads. Bicarbonate levels are then reduced due to acid retention, leading to osteoporosis, kidney stones, and reduced strength and muscle mass, Dr. Emmett added.
If confirmed in larger studies, the new findings may provide simple measurements for doctor to help identify patients with higher risks of premature death. Dr. Raphael said that the remedy to reduce the risk is not yet clear. Women who are pregnant, as well as people who have heart, kidney, liver or lung disease should never self-medicate with baking soda or bicarbonate, according to Dr. Raphael.
In theory, a diet based on more fruit and vegetables may help increase the levels of bicarbonate in the blood, because fruits and other plant-based foods produce bicarbonate when digested, Emmett said. However, consuming too much backing soda – which is an alternative medical practice – can have negative side-effects, like high blood pressure and a perforated stomach, he explained.
Image Source: healthcare-online
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