Author Archives: garkin

High Altitude Reduces Risk of Dying from Heart Disease

When deciding which city to live in, most of us probably consider the neighborhood, convenience, livability, along with other related factors. However, most of us do not consider the elevation of the city. Ironically, this factor could be the most important because it could potentially affect one’s health.


In a recent article published by Science Daily (which can be found here), they reported a study that was conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine, in partnership with Harvard School of Global Health. In this study, researchers claim that living in places with high elevation or altitude can lower the chance of dying from ischemic heart disease and increase one’s life expectancy as well.

The four-year study was conducted by analyzing death certificates from various parts of the U.S. The researchers examined cause-of-death, socio-economic factors and other issues in their research. They found that on average, people that lived in higher altitudes had higher life expectancies. Although, they also said that above 4,900 feet were detrimental.

At higher altitudes, oxygen is not as freely available, hence the body has to accommodate and adjust to this abnormality through a variety of ways. It appears that one of the key ways of coping is through the expression of certain genes. These genes are only expressed at high altitudes and they may influence or change the way heart muscles function. Hence, the heart is able to function more efficient and at the same time new blood vessels that can create increased blood flow into the heart are also produced. Furthermore, the researchers claim that increased solar radiation due to the high altitudes can help the body synthesize vitamin D more efficiently, which has also been shown to have beneficial effects on the heart and prevents certain types of cancers.

However, the researchers also mentioned 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. This essentially means that the results of the study are inconclusive and altitude may or may not affect one’s health.


Nevertheless, I know that some athletes purposely train at higher altitudes. They do this because it can increase their red blood cell volume. This way, when they travel to competitions at lower altitudes they will still have a higher concentration of red blood cells, which will give them a competitive advantage. Even though, the results may not be conclusive, it is still an interesting area to study, and perhaps it could lead to new discovers for rehabilitation medicine. In the mean time, if you ever decide to move to a new city, just keep the elevation in the back of your head, and remember that it could potentially affect your health.

The Keys to Longevity

Longevity is a goal most of us strive for, and in most of our minds the keys to accomplishing this consists of being happy, eating healthy, and not stressing too much. However, it appears that these common assumptions made by people are in fact wrong. In a recent article published by Science Daily (which can be found here), they reported the findings of a twenty year study about longevity and the results are not what we would expect.

Image from:

The study, which is called “The Longevity Project”, was conducted by a group of scientists at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). These scientists examined, and refined previously collected data by Stanford University. The data which was initiated back in 1921, documented the lives of over 1500 children as they grew, starting from the age of ten. The children were studied throughout their lives, and information regarding family histories, relationships, hobbies, pet ownership, job success, education levels, military service, and numerous other details were collected. The scientists at UCR discovered many similarities in the data and they concluded that personality characteristics and social relations from childhood can predict one’s risk of dying decades later.

On average, it was discovered that test subjects who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humor as kids lived shorter lives. While, individuals that were most prudent and persistent stayed the healthiest and lived the longest. This is definitely counterintuitive to what most people think. It appears that the subjects that were cheerful as kids tended to take more risks with their health across the years, hence risky or dangerous activities shortened the lives of many. Those that were prudence and persistence on the other hand, often developed many important and beneficial habits throughout their lives. The scientists found out that happiness is not a cause of good health, but instead happiness and health are related because they have common roots.

Image from:

Furthermore, some of these intriguing key findings include that marriage may be good for men’s health, but it does not really matter for women. Men who remained in long term marriages generally lived longer than single or divorced men. As well continually productive men and women lived much longer than their more laid-back counterparts. Lastly, people who felt loved and cared for reported a better sense of well-being, but surprisingly it did not help them live longer. The clearest health benefit of social relationships comes from being involved with and helping others. The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become, healthy or unhealthy.

These results are definitely interesting, and hence we should keep them in mind when we are trying to extend our longevity. In fact, it would probably be beneficial if we started to incorporate some of these findings in to our daily lives. For instance, we should all be more productive, and we should all be more involved. Hopefully in the future, the average life expectancy of people can exceed 100 years old.

Aerobic Exercise Boosts Memory

As midterms are quickly approaching, many of us are trying to retain and cram as much information as we can into our brains. If it hasn’t already become apparent, most of us will realize that our brains can only store a limited amount of information. Fortunately, there appears to be a way to expand and boost our memory, and that is simply through aerobic exercises.

Image from:

In a recent article published by Science News (which can be found here), they reported a study that was highlighted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In this study, scientists discovered that adults who frequently performed aerobic exercise activities such as walking developed an increase in hippocampus volume. The hippocampus, which is a memory centre in the brain, normally decreases in size with age, however in the study the reversed occurred. They also found that the members had higher levels of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a brain-aiding molecule.

Image from:

Wikipedia article on the hippocampus:

Wikipedia article on Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF):

The study compared two different groups of adults aged 60 to 80. In one group, the adults did toning workouts such as weight training and yoga sessions for a year. While in the other group, the adults consistenly walked for three times a week. After a year, the group which simply did toning showed normal results, which consisted of some of the test subjects observing a decrease in hippocampus volume. On the other hand, the group that did a year of aerobic exercises observed roughly a 2 percent increase in anterior hippocampus volume.

If adults aged 60 to 80 can develop increases in the hippocampus by up to 2 percent, it begs the question of whether a younger study group would develop an even larger increase in their hippocampus. Hence, this study should be expanded to include a more diverse age group. Furthermore, why should the study stop there? They could also include teenagers, children, and possibly toddlers as well. Perhaps they might discover that people that have superior memory got that way by doing a lot of aerobic exercise during their childhood. It would also be interesting to understand why and how this process occurs. This is definitely a fascinating area of research, and it has great implications. It shows that exercise not only benefits the body, but the brain as well. So it is in everyone’s interest to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to keep fit.

Corals Are Moving North

Flickr: Martin-Klein

As the average temperature of the Earth rises due to climate change, the temperature of the oceans rises as well. These drastic rise in ocean temperatures, affect marine organisms of all shapes and sizes. However, the most prominent effects have been observed on corals. Corals, which are home to thousands of marine creatures, are considered to be some of the most fascinating and eye pleasing marine organisms in the oceans. Unfortunately, they are also highly sensitive to environmental changes.

In a recent article published in Science News (which can be found here), coral migration was studied and tracked by a group of scientists off the coasts of Japan. When they compared current results to data collected from different time periods starting in the 1930’s, they found out that various common coral species have retreated northward, and some have even gone as far as temperate waters. Furthermore, the abundance of coral has decreased proportionately with northward migration.

Mila Zinkova/Wikimedia Commons

If this trend were to continue and not be altered, the population of corals in the oceans will continue to decline. This decline is very unfortunate and it shows how deadly climate change can be. Corals are home to thousands of different marine organisms. Hence, the lost of corals, also causes the direct loss of other marine organisms. Ultimately this can lead to an overall reduction in biodiversity. Furthermore, the decline in coral also jeopardizes recreational activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling.

Although this article, provides excellent evidence to support the fact that corals are moving north and their abundance is decreasing. It does not provide us with ways to prevent or slow down this process. Most of us are already aware of the drastic effects climate change has on marine organisms, but very few of us know how to directly prevent such events from occurring. Hopefully we’ll see more media coverage on prevention methods in the future, so that such events can be prevented or subdued in the future.