Can Living at a Higher Altitude Increase Your Lifespan?

Rocky MountainsAccording to a four-year study recently conducted at the University of Colorado, living at an altitude above 5,000 feet may actually increase a person’s lifespan. The study, recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, was put together using data from around the United States, and found that, of the top 20 longest-living counties in the U.S., a significant portion were located in Colorado and Utah, where the mean elevation was over 5,000 feet above sea level.

Apparently the study showed that men in those counties lived an average of 1.2 to 3.6 years longer, and women lived an average of 0.5 to 2.5 years longer.

“Lower oxygen levels turn on certain genes, and we think those genes may change the way heart muscles function,” said Dr. Benjamin Honigman, author of the study. “Does living at altitude change the way a disease progresses? Does it have health effects that we should be investigating? Ultimately, we hope this research will help people lead healthier lives.”

Of course, when other factors such as smoking were thrown in the mix, there was no significant difference between lowlanders and mountain dwellers. Also notable, was that people with existing pulmonary disease may actually be at greater risk of mortality while living at a higher elevation.

This makes me wonder whether the researchers took regional lifestyle trends into account when they conducted the survey, because I would guess that more active, outdoorsy types tend to gravitate toward Colorado and Utah over other areas of the country. Either way, it is certainly interesting research, and I would be curious to learn more. What do you think?

Via Outside Blog

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