Living High Could Mean Living Longer15 years, 4 months ago
Posted on Mar 16, 2005, 6 a.m.
By Bill Freeman
If you want to live longer, live high. Mountain dwellers had better survival rates than lowland populations in a recent study of the inhabitants of three villages in Greece, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The findings are based on tracking the cardiovascular health and death rates of 1,150 inhabitants of the villages, all near Athens, over a period of 15 years.
The findings are based on tracking the cardiovascular health and death rates of 1,150 inhabitants of the villages, all near Athens, over a period of 15 years.
In Greece, deaths from heart disease and all causes are among the lowest of any developed country.
Biochemical Health Profiles Created
One of the villages studied is located in a mountainous area almost 1,000 metres above sea level; the other two are located on the plains. But the principal livelihoods in all three villages are similar: farming and animal husbandry for the men, and home making for the women.
Information on risk factors -- including gender, age, weight, smoking habits, blood pressure, and alcohol consumption -- were collected for each person in 1981. Blood samples were also taken to build a profile of biochemical health.
More Risk Factors Among Mountain Dwellers
Overall, both men and women living in the mountain village had a worse coronary heart disease risk profile than their peers living in the lowland area, with higher rates of circulating blood lipids and higher blood pressure.
In 1996, the researchers assessed the number of survivors. Over the 15 years, 150 men and 140 women died. Of these, 67 deaths -- 34 of which were among the men -- were attributable to coronary heart disease.
But after taking account of all the cardiovascular risk factors, mountain village residents had lower death rates, and lower rates of death from heart disease, than their peers in the lowlands. The effects were more pronounced among the men.
Better Cardiovascular Workouts?
Because blood lipids and blood pressure were higher among the mountain residents, other "protective" factors must have been at play that resulted in better survival rates, the researchers conclude.
They point out that living at moderately high altitude produces long term physiological changes in the body to enable it to cope with lower levels of oxygen, and that this, combined with the exertion required to walk uphill regularly on rugged terrain, could give the heart a better work-out.