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Study shows living at high altitude reduces risk of dying from heart disease
Date:3/25/2011

AURORA, Colo. (March 25, 2011) 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 an
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Contact: David Kelly
david.kelly@ucdenver.edu
303-315-6374
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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