Mountain States High Altitude Living Could Make You Healthier
Living at high altitudes not only provides breath taking scenery but can give your health a boost to better health
It has been estimated more than 25 million people live in altitudes above 3,000 meters. High altitude living not only provides you with views of beautiful mountains and brings you closer to nature but also provides health benefits and could add years to your life.
Would you consider moving to an area with high altitudes if it could cut your risk for metabolic syndrome? Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A recent study had showed living in areas with high altitude was linked with a significant decreased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
This research is the first to evaluate the association between high altitude living and the risk to initially healthy people developing all the conditions for metabolic syndrome. Past studies have suggested when the body needs to work harder for oxygen it needs have apparently fewer problems associated to metabolic syndrome.
The study revealed the higher the altitude the less likely risk you had for developing metabolic syndrome. (Living at a Geographically Higher Elevation Is Associated with Lower Risk of Metabolic Syndrome: Prospective Analysis of the SUN Cohort. Frontiers in Physiology, 2017; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00658)
Heart Disease Mortality
Living in higher altitudes lowers the risk of dying from ischemic heart disease and have a longer life. The study also showed altitudes over 4,900 feet were harmful to those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Researchers spent four years evaluating death certificates from every county in the U.S. They examined cause-of-death, socioeconomic factors and other issues in their research.
Researchers found that top 20 counties with the highest life expectancy were located in Colorado and Utah. Each county was on average an elevation of 5,967 feet above sea level. The men lived between 75.8 and 78.2 years, while women ranged from 80.5 to 82.5 years. In comparison to those living near sea-level men had lived 1.2 to 3.5 years longer and women 0.5 to 2.5 years more.
The researchers concluded living at higher altitude may have a protective effect on ischemic heart disease and a harmful effect on COPD. (Altitude, life expectancy and mortality from ischemic heart disease, stroke, COPD and cancers: national population-based analysis of US counties. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2011; DOI: 10.1136/jech.2010.112938)
US service members who are overweight are 41 percent less likely to receive a diagnosis of clinical obesity stationed at high altitude military facilities.
In this retrospective study researchers set out to assess whether residence at high altitude is linked with the development of obesity among those who are at an increased risk for obesity. Researchers observed all outpatient medical encounters for overweight active component enlisted service members in the U.S. Army or Air Force from January 2006 to December 2012 who were stationed in the United States. They compared high altitude duty assignments to low altitude.
The findings revealed military members living in a high altitude residence had 41 percent lower rates pf a new obesity diagnosis among overweight military members of the US Army and Air Force. (Lower Obesity Rate during Residence at High Altitude among a Military Population with Frequent Migration: A Quasi Experimental Model for Investigating Spatial Causation. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (4): e93493 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093493)
In a meta-analysis researchers measured the of high altitude climate therapy on lung function outcomes on asthma. The studies included children and adults with an exposure of up to 12 weeks at an altitude of 1500 meters or more above sea level. Included was data for 907 participants (age range 4–58 years) from 21 studies. The team found a statically significant in lung function following high altitude therapy. The positive effect was present in both children and adults with asthma. (High-altitude alpine therapy and lung function in asthma: systematic review and meta-analysis ERJ Open Research 2016 2: 00097-2015; DOI: 10.1183/23120541.00097-2015)
A study finds the predominance of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) greatly decreases as altitude increases. In this study researchers evaluated the effect of altitude on rates of ADHD. Data was drawn from 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health report and 2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs report to extract the percentages of youth ages 4 to 17 diagnosed with ADHD. The results found that the prevalence of ADHD decreases with increasing altitude. The researchers believe higher levels of dopamine produced as a reaction to hypobaric hypoxia; a condition caused when people breathe air with less oxygen at higher elevations. Decreased dopamine levels are linked with ADHD so when dopamine levels increase with altitude the risk of having the disorder decline. Data showed the states with low rates of ADHD were average elevation of 5,517 feet above sea level -- had the lowest percentage at 5.6. Utah had one of the lowest ADHD rates 6.7 percent. All of the Mountain West states which include Colorado and Nevada were below the average percentage for children diagnosed with ADHD. The study controlled for potential factors (like birth weight, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status) that might contribute to a higher rate of ADHD. (Journal of Attention Disorders First published date: March-25-2015 10.1177/1087054715577137)
Living at a higher altitude may reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s by up to fifty percent. The study analyzed country-specific deaths of people who died from Alzheimer’s dementia in various California counties in 2005. The study found those who reside in high altitudes half as likely to die from Alzheimer’s compared to those who live in lower altitudes. (JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1253-1254. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1852)
U.S. National Committee for the International Biological Program. Research Studies Constituting the U.S. Contribution to the International Biological Program. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1968. Print.