Tag Archives: longevity

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.

Image: http://www.andes.org.uk/altitude.asp

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.

Image: http://www.lifeslittlemysteries.com/why-do-athletes-train-at-high-altitudes-1005/

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: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0511/feature1/index.html

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: http://www.forbes.com/2002/08/07/0807sport_8.html

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.