Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Living at high altitude reduces risk of dying from heart disease: Low oxygen may spur genes to create blood vessels

Date:
March 26, 2011
Source:
University of Colorado Denver
Summary:
Researchers have found that people living at higher altitudes have a lower chance of dying from heart disease and live longer.

In one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in partnership with the Harvard School of Global Health have found that people living at higher altitudes have a lower chance of dying from ischemic heart disease and tend to live longer than others.

"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," said Benjamin Honigman, MD, professor of Emergency Medicine at the CU School of Medicine and director of the Altitude Medicine Clinic. "Lower oxygen levels turn on certain genes and 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."

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 have beneficial effects on the heart and some kinds of cancer.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

At the same time, the research 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 and gas exchange may exacerbate hypoxia and pulmonary hypertension [leading to death]," the study said.

Honigman, senior author of the study, along with researchers that included Robert Roach, PhD, director of the School of Medicine's Altitude Research Center, Deborah Thomas, PhD, a geographer at the University of Colorado Denver and Majid Ezzati of the Harvard School of Global Health, spent four years analyzing death certificates from every county in the U.S. They examined cause-of-death, socio-economic factors and other issues in their research.

They found that of the top 20 counties with the highest life expectancy, eleven for men and five for women were located in Colorado and Utah. And each county was at a mean 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.

Compared to those living near sea-level, the men lived 1.2 to 3.6 years longer and women 0.5 to 2.5 years more.

Despite these numbers, the study showed that when socio-economic factors, solar radiation, smoking and pulmonary disease were taken into account, the net effect of altitude on overall life expectancy was negligible.

Still, Honigman said, altitude seems to offer protection against heart disease deaths and may also play a role in cancer development.

Colorado, the highest state in the nation, is also the leanest state, the fittest state, has the fewest deaths from heart disease and a lower incidence of colon and lung cancer compared to others.

"We want to now look at these diseases in a more focused way so we can see the mechanisms behind hypoxia and why they affect the body the way they do," Honigman said. "This is a public health issue in Colorado and the mountain West. We have more than 700,000 people living at over 7,000 feet above sea level. 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado Denver. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Ezzati, M. E. M. Horwitz, D. S. K. Thomas, A. B. Friedman, R. Roach, T. Clark, C. J. L. Murray, B. Honigman. Altitude, life expectancy and mortality from ischaemic 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

Cite This Page:

University of Colorado Denver. "Living at high altitude reduces risk of dying from heart disease: Low oxygen may spur genes to create blood vessels." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110325151643.htm>.
University of Colorado Denver. (2011, March 26). Living at high altitude reduces risk of dying from heart disease: Low oxygen may spur genes to create blood vessels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110325151643.htm
University of Colorado Denver. "Living at high altitude reduces risk of dying from heart disease: Low oxygen may spur genes to create blood vessels." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110325151643.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

CDC Revamps Ebola Guidelines After Criticism

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued new protocols for healthcare workers interacting with Ebola patients. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Trials to Start a in January

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for "real-world" testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe in soon to start trials, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

CDC Issues New Ebola Guidelines for Health Workers

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set up new guidelines for health workers taking care of patients infected with Ebola. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins