Pee Reveals How Long You Might Live, Other Health Secrets
Something as simple and routine as a urine test (a pee test) could give you a clue as to how long you will live. That’s just one of the health secrets you and your healthcare provider can discover when testing your pee.
A new study links a pee test with life expectancy
A research team from the University of Calgary in Canada recently published their findings concerning protein levels in urine. The experts found that among more than 810,000 adults 30 to 85 years of age, the higher the amounts of excess protein in the urine (a condition known as proteinuria), the shorter the individuals’ life expectancy.
When too much protein leaks into the urine, it is an indication that there may be something wrong with the kidneys. The two most common risk factors for proteinuria are diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which can damage the kidneys.
Other causes of proteinuria may include use of medications, trauma, presence of toxins, infections, multiple myeloma, preeclampsia, and immune system disorders. Proteinuria is more likely to occur among people older than 65, those who are obese, and among African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders more than among whites.
So what secrets did the authors of the pee study uncover? They found that :
- Men without proteinuria lived 8.2 years longer than men who had excess protein in their pee
- Women without proteinuria lived 10.5 years longer than those with excess protein
Dr. Tanvir Chowdhury Turin, the study’s lead author, noted that “We already know that severity of chronic kidney disease is associated with increased risk of adverse outcomes including mortality risk, but the effect of proteinuria on life expectancy has not been estimated before.”
Therefore it appears that identifying the levels of protein in pee can be a useful tool in determining a person’s life expectancy. But for what other purposes are urine tests used?
Secrets of urine tests
Urine contains hundreds of different substances that are eliminated by the body, and there are more than 100 different tests that can be performed on pee that can uncover a wide range of health issues. Perhaps the most common urine test is a urinalysis, which actually is a combination of various tests that look at different factors. For example:
- Color: How light or dark urine is indicates how much water is in it. Factors that affect color include diet, use of medications, diseases, and fluid balance.
- Odor: The presence of some diseases can cause the natural slightly nutty odor of urine to change. For example, diabetes causes the urine to have a sweet odor, while certain infections can cause a foul odor.
- Protein: Urine should not contain protein, but when it does, it can indicate not only kidney disease but fever, pregnancy, and various diseases.
- Glucose: The presence of high levels of glucose in the urine is a sign of diabetes or of kidney disease or damage.
- Nitrites: These substances indicate the presence of a urinary tract infection.
- Red blood cells: These cells should not be in urine, but if they are, it indicates the possibility of inflammation, damage to the kidneys, bladder, or urethra, or disease. Strenuous exercise also can cause red blood cells to appear in the urine.
- White blood cells: These are usually a sign of an infection or kidney disease.
- Ketones: These substances are the result of the metabolism of fats. High levels of ketones in the urine may indicate diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious medical condition. However, severe vomiting, a diet low in starch and sugar, and starvation may cause the presence of ketones in urine.
- Crystals: The presence of a few crystals in urine is not a cause for alarm, but when there is a large number, it may indicate kidney stones or a problem with metabolism of food.
- Bacteria, parasites, yeast: If any of these foreign substances are in urine, it usually indicates an infection is present.
In addition to urinalysis, there are many other urine tests performed, such as those to test for drug use (e.g., cocaine, barbiturates, marijuana, opiates), pregnancy tests, and tests for specific conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney disease, bladder tumors, elevated calcium levels, lupus related kidney disease, multiple myeloma, and adrenal gland disease, among dozens of others.
Thus that little container of urine you hand the nurse has the potential to reveal some important information for you and your clinician. Now it appears an additional advantage of pee testing may be an indication of how long you might live.
ALSO READ: Putting Pee to Work
Turin TC et al. Proteinuria and life expectancy. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 2013 April; 61(4): 646-48