A new study completed by Gustavo R. Zubieta-Calleja based out of La Paz Bolivia has shown that residents of high altitude live longer and healthier lives then their sea-level companions. According to the study there are several things that high altitude offers that contribute to increased longevity of residents. Residents at high altitudes have adapted to life with less oxygen (hypoxia) thus enabling their bodies to be more suited for a longer life. The study also points out that at higher altitudes there is less of an occurrence of asthma and other lung diseases, this can be attributed to the dryness of the air and the abundance of sunshine typically found at higher altitudes.
Dr. Zubieta-Calleja goes on to point out that living at high altitude can improve longevity in many other ways as well.
- It alters the genetic make up populations, making them stronger and more suited to difficult living conditions
- High altitude residents are less susceptible to many diseases that sea-level residents need to be concerned with as well. This is due to the lack of mosquitos and many other disease-carrying insects that are unable to survive at high altitude.
- Increased exposure to sunshine increases the bodies Vitamin D levels providing us with benefits to our hearts and well as reducing our risk of some cancers.
- High altitude also helps our hearts become stronger, thus working more effectively, while also increasing blood flow to our body and brains.
- The decrease in oxygen level at high altitude helps our lungs work more effectively and increases our ventilation.
Dr. Zubieta-Calleja’s research has shown that there are more residents over 90 and 100 years of age at high altitude then there are at comparable populations at sea-level. The study compared the city of Santa Cruz Bolivia with an elevation of 416m to La Paz Bolivia with an elevation of 3800m, both cities have a population around 2.7 million people. In Santa Cruz there were 158 residents older than 90 years of age verses 974 residents older than 90 in La Paz. The trend continues for those over 100 years of age as well. In Santa Cruz there are 6 residents over 100 years of age verses 48 residents older than 100 in La Paz. Dr. Zubieta-Calleja’s study shows that as altitude increases so does longevity.
Dr. Chris’ parents! Both in their 90’s and are happy residents of high altitude living.
Written by Rhea Teasley-Bennett FNP student
Zubieta-Calleja, G.R., & Zubieta-DeUrioste, N.A. (2017). Extended longevity at high altitude: Benefits of exposure to chronic hypoxia. BLDE University Journal of Health Sciences.