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March 27, 2011

Living at high altitude may reduce risk of heart disease!

LOS ANGELES: Living at higher altitudes may reduce the risk of dying from ischemic heart disease & enhance the chance to live longer! That's what recent U.S. researchers 've found. This founding came from a joint study by researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine (UCSM) & the Harvard School of Global Health.  

The study was published on Friday on EurekAlert.org, the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This is one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, the AAAS noted. The researchers spent four years analyzing death certificates from every county in the United States, taking into account of cause-of-death, socio-economic factors & other issues in their research, according to the AAAS.

They found that of the top 20 counties with the highest life expectancy, 11 for men & five for women were located in Colorado & Utah. And each county was at a mean elevation of 5,967 feet above sea level. The men lived between 75.8 & 78.2 years, while women ranged from 80.5 to 82.5 years. Compared to those living near sea-level, the men lived 1.2 to 3. 6 years longer & women 0.5 to 2.5 years more.

"Lower oxygen levels turn on certain genes & we think those genes may change the way heart muscles function. They may also produce new blood vessels that create new highways for blood flow into the heart," explained Benjamin Honigman, professor of Emergency Medicine at the CUSM & director of the Altitude Medicine Clinic. Another explanation, he said, could be that increased solar radiation at altitude helps the body better synthesize vitamin D which has also been shown to '
ve beneficial effects on the heart & some kinds of cancer.

"If living in a lower oxygen environment such as in our Colorado mountains helps reduce the risk of dying from heart disease, it could help us develop new clinical treatments for those conditions," Honigman said. Meanwhile, the study showed that altitudes above 4,900 feet were detrimental to those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. "Even modestly lower oxygen levels in people with already impaired breathing & gas exchange may exacerbate hypoxia & pulmonary hypertension (leading to death)," the study said.

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