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Higher Altitude Improves Kidney Dialysis, Life Span

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, February 04, 2009 12:46 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Oxygen Levels, Dialysis, Kidney Problems, Endurance, Living Well

Living at a higher altitude improved mortality amohng kidney dialysis patients.  



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ mountain biker in snow/ author: Wolfgang


Dialysis patients who live above sea level may do better than their lowland counterparts.

That is a finding published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Harvard researchers found that those living at 4,000 feet above sea level had an upwards of 15 percent lower mortality rate.

The study followed more than 800,000 undergoing dialysis from 1995 to 2004.  Mortality was reported to be 220 per 1,000 patients at 250 foot elevation and lower.   Those living above 6,000 foot elevation had a mortality rate of 177 per 1,000 patients.

And for those living at or near sea level, the five-year survival rate was 34 percent, but that rose to almost 43 percent for those living above 6,000 feet altitude.   

Why the improved kidney function at a higher elevation?  

There is less oxygen at higher elevations. It had previously been observed that dialysis patients at a higher elevation had an increase in oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in their blood with low doses of erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. 

"So-called hypoxia-inducted factors [factors induced by lower oxygen levels] affect probably more than 100 systems and genes downstream, some of which may affect long-term survival, including those that may affect cardiovascular health," said study author Dr. Wolfgang C. Winkelmayer, an associate physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital tells US News. 

The authors also observe that those living at higher altitudes tend to live longer.  And many athletes tend to train at high altitudes to create extra red cells they hope will lead to additional endurance at sea level, reports the Los Angeles Times. 

Exposure to melamine, the industrial chemical, is known to damage the kidneys, but as IB member Steve Lombardi reports from Iowa, some levels have been deemed acceptable.  # 

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