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Geriatr Gerontol Int. 2009 Dec;9(4):342-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0594.2009.00555.x.

Comprehensive geriatric assessment of elderly highlanders in Qinghai, China II: the association of polycythemia with lifestyle-related diseases among the three ethnicities.

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  • 1Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, 457-4 Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto 603-8047, Japan.



The objective of this study is to disclose the association of polycythemia with lifestyle-related diseases (hypertension, obesity and glucose intolerance) among the three ethnicities in Qinghai, China.


The subjects were 393 elderly people (247 Han, 97 Tibetan and 49 Mongolian) aged 60 years and more living in Qinghai (3000 m a.s.l.) in China. The associated factors with polycythemia were analyzed in the subjects. Excessive polycythemia was defined as hemoglobin concentration over 20 mg/dL.


Polycythemia was associated with men, hypoxemia, obesity and high diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in the elderly in Qinghai. Male sex was associated with polycythemia in all ethnicities. Obesity was associated with Han and Tibetan men. Glucose intolerance and activities of daily living were not directly associated with polycythemia after adjustment for sex. There were 7.9% with excessive polycythemia. Independently-associated factors for excessive polycythemia were male sex, body mass index of 25 or more, SpO(2) of less than 85%, DBP of 85 mmHg or more and Han ethnicity (vs Tibetan) by multiple logistic regression.


There was a close association of polycythemia with diastolic hypertension and obesity in lifestyle-related diseases in high-altitude elderly people. Han people had a higher hemoglobin concentration after adjustment of lifestyle-related diseases compared with Tibetan people. The difference of hemoglobin concentration may be due to Tibetans undergoing a much longer period of adaptation than Han people. Further study is needed to disclose the association between the difference of hypoxic adaptation, lifestyle-related diseases and chronic mountain sickness for their prevention.

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