Why Living High Is Good

Written by Dr. Dave Hnida CBS4 Medical Editor You may want to add one more reason why living in the Mile High City (or almost anywhere in Colorado) is a great thing: you’ll add more years to living in the Mile High City or almost anywhere in Colorado.

A new study out of the CU School of Medicine (and Harvard) shows the high life is very good for your health, especially when it comes to  your heart. Researchers analyzed the top 20 counties for life expectancy in the United States and finds 11 of them for men, and 5 for women, were either in Colorado or Utah. This is out of every county in America.

These healthiest counties, incidentally, averaged about 5960 feet in elevation.

Since Colorado is overall the highest state in the Union, lets just forget about Utah and talk about why our neck of the woods can add years to your life. And I do mean healthiest. After all, Colorado consistently rings the bell for lowest rates of obesity, highest rates of activity…. and lowest rate of heart disease. We also have lower rates of colon and lung cancer than most of the country.

Men in these Colorado counties lived about 3.5 years longer, and women 2.5 years longer, compared to  those sucking up high levels of oxygen at sea level.

So why is the “thin air” so good for the heart?

Its thought that lower oxygen pressures switch on certain protective genes in the body. And some of those genes cause the body to manufacture new blood vessels- meaning someone living around here may grow more blood vessels in the heart (and maybe brain and other organs) than someone living at sea level. That means better blood supply and less disease.

It’s not clear how long you need to live at a higher elevation to start growing new blood vessels- and have better blood flow.

 All I can say is I’ve been hanging out in the thin air for 30 years so I’m hoping I’ve got a little extra protection from my Rocky Mountain High… and that’s after growing up in the Garden State of New Jersey.

And I don’t even want to think about what the air there did to my heart.


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