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Mayo researchers head to Mt. Everest to gain insights into aging and heart disease

A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic is analyzing the effects of altitude on Mt. Everest climbers to gain new insights into aging and heart disease. Researchers will set up their lab at the mountain's base camp and then climbers will embark on a 10-day trek to 17,500 feet. Throughout the trip, researchers will provide updates via Twitter, Mayo's blog and National Geographic's adventure blog.

Discover Magazine blog 80beats reports:

... the extreme altitude takes quite a toll on the body, causing hypoxia, muscle loss, sleep apnea, and other ill effects. Many of the same symptoms are more commonly found in elderly patients suffering from heart conditions or other chronic ailments--meaning Everest provides a natural laboratory for researchers to gain a better understanding of these diseases.

The team will gather data on the mountaineers' heart rate, oxygen levels, and sleep quality, as well as taking samples of their blood and urine. Among the questions the scientists will investigate are whether muscle loss, common in heart disease patients and the elderly, is related to lack of oxygen, especially during sleep, and why fluid gathers in the lungs of both some high-altitude climbers and some heart failure patients. They'll also test out a new heartrate monitor device embedded in the climbers' clothes--and, if it works well, perhaps in the clothes of patients someday soon.

Photo by Rick McCharles

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