ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Soybean Chemicals May Reduce Effects of Menopause
Naprapathy: A Hands-On Approach to Pain Management
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Vitamin K Doesn't Slow Bone Loss
Extra Pounds in Mid-Life Affect Later Mobility
Winter Is Tough on Feet
CANCER
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Vitamin D May Improve Melanoma Survival
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
CAREGIVING
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
Hispanic Children More Likely to Have Hearing Loss
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
DIABETES
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
DIET, NUTRITION
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Antioxidant-Rich Foods Lose Nutritional Luster Over Time
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
Accumulated Lead May Affect Older Women's Brains
Smog Standards Need Tightening, Activists Say
EYE CARE, VISION
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
FITNESS
Run for Your Life
Exercise in Adolescence May Cut Risk of Deadly Brain Tumor
Seniors Who Exercise Help Their Health
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Healthy Eating While On Vacation
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Treat symptoms (result of disease) or diagnose systems (cause of disease)?
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Heart Disease
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Plastics Chemical Tied to Aggression in Young Girls
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Drink Away Dementia?
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
SENIORS
Money May Matter, Health-Wise, in Old Age
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Air Pollution Slows Women's Marathon Times
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Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Going to the world's most elevated natural laboratory, Mount Everest, British researchers have found that the established medical rules about the amount of oxygen needed by a body under stress might be wrong.

"Some people can tolerate extremely low levels of oxygen, much lower than we expected," said Dr. Michael P.W. Grocott, from University College London and lead author of a report in the Jan. 8 New England Journal of Medicine.

His team determined their findings on hypoxia, which is low levels of oxygen, from measurements made on 10 climbers as they went up and down Everest, whose peak of more than 29,000 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth.

The report is the first to come from a large-scale project "specifically designed to understand the differences between people and how they react to hypoxia," Grocott said. Those differences are difficult to measure in ordinary hospital laboratories, but the Everest project provided a way for "measurement of unusual people in a strange place," he added.

The researchers, from the Center for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine at the University College London's Institute of Human Health and Performance, wanted to make blood measurements at the very peak of Everest, but the weather did not allow that. Instead, samples were taken at the highest level possible, at an altitude of about 27,559 feet. The blood oxygen readings at that level "are, to our knowledge, among the lowest ever documented in humans," the researchers wrote.

"I don't expect patients to survive in oxygen levels that we saw in these subjects," Grocott said. Yet all of them "were functioning perfectly ably," he added.

The Everest finding could lead to a change in the treatment of the hypoxia often seen in people in emergency rooms, like those suffering heart attacks.

The first rule now in such cases is to keep blood oxygen levels high by whatever means possible, Grocott noted. "But mechanical ventilation can be harmful," he said. "It can cause inflammation in the lungs. The gentler you are, the less damage you do to the lungs."

The data from the Everest study is not nearly enough to be put to use medically, Grocott said. "We are not proposing a change in clinical practice," he said. But he added that it was enough to spur a proposal for a randomized clinical trial of less aggressive oxygen-supplying treatments in some cases.

"We are currently seeking funding for such a trial in the United Kingdom," he said. "We would do the trial in people at lowest risk to hypoxia, not to those with heart attack and stroke. It would be in younger people with no vascular [blood vessel] disease, traumatically injured patients with injured lungs."

But what is seen in Everest climbers might not be true in the emergency room, said Dr. Norberto C. Gonzalez, professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Kansas, who has done research on hypoxia.

The climbers in the study had spent substantial amounts of time at high altitudes, Gonzalez said. "These people are acclimatized," he said. "If you and I were exposed to this level of oxygen, we couldn't take it."

While he expressed marvel at the measurements, "as low in oxygen as you can get and still be alive," Gonzalez expressed doubt that the findings seen in experienced climbers could be extended to ordinary hospital treatment.

"I'm not so sure that you can extrapolate what happens to a healthy individual who is exposed to an extreme to someone who has many problems," he said.

-Ed Edelson

More Information

What hypoxia can do to the brain is described by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.



SOURCES: Michael P. W. Grocott, M.D., Center for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine, Institute of Human Health and Performance, University College London, and senior lecturer in intensive care, University College London, England; Norberto C. Gonzalez, M.D., professor of molecular and integrative physiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.; Jan. 8, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine

Last Updated: Jan. 07, 2009

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Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use
NASA

Mt. Everest from International Space Station