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Research

Lower Bicarbonate, Higher Risk for an Early Death

Otherwise healthy older people with low levels of bicarbonate, a major element in the body that helps maintain proper pH balance, were at a 24 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those in a study group whose bicarbonate levels were normal or even high.

Researchers analyzed information on 2,287 healthy black and white adults 70-79 years old who were part of the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study, which began in 1997. Survival data were evaluated through February 2014 and study participants were followed for an average of more than 10 years. The analysis showed that people with normal or high bicarbonate levels had a similar risk of dying during the follow-up period, but those with low levels faced a substantially higher risk of dying earlier.

Bicarbonate helps maintain proper pH balance, which is important to keep cells and organs working properly. However, the overall pH levels of participants in the study appeared to have no association with early death among people who had low bicarbonate levels. The study findings suggest that physicians might want to take a closer look at the bicarbonate levels in older patients to identify those at risk for dying prematurely.