September 06, 2015

4 Health Benefits of High Altitude (Andes Mountains) Living

Note: When I first started writing this article I titled it “5 Health Benefits of Altitude Living” but it took everything out of me just to find 4 health benefits, and 3 out of 4 of those health benefits only apply to already healthy people.  

Living in high altitudes is not necessarily healthier; however, statistics show people that live in high altitude US states such as Utah and Colorado are fitter (it takes more physicality to exist at higher altitudes) and have lower obesity rates. 

Source: Chicago Tribune 

According to Acclimate Magazine - Low lander's generally aren’t affected by altitude until they reach 4,500 to 5,000 feet. But after that, the affects of altitude are compounded about every 1,000 feet — so the affects of going from 6,000 feet to 7000 feet can feel the same as jumping from sea level to 4,500 feet.

Cuenca Altitude = 2550M (8,400’)
Quito Altitude =  2850M (9,350’)
 

1. Lose Weight  – Studies have shown that living in low oxygen environments means less of an appetite because higher altitudes may affect the hormones responsible for telling us we're hungry.  The other reason is high altitude does make you exert more energy when moving about, thus we burn more calories when doing simple activities like walking.

Source: University of California – Berkeley Wellness

Our observation: Many people do lose weight when they move to Cuenca and Quito and this could account for part of that weight loss.  

2. Majestic Mountains and Pretty Scenery – no matter where you live in high altitude it is always beautiful in the mountains.  Any mountains other than the most parched are beautiful to those that love nature.
Cuenca Ecuador
Both Quito and Cuenca have breath taking mountain backdrops. 
Quito Ecuador - Independencia Parque

3. Reduced Risk of Heart Disease - 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. (again, more energy and exertion is needed at higher altitudes, which is good for the heart)

Source: EurekAlert!  The Global Source for Science News
 

Note: the study also showed that if the patient smoked, and, or was in poor health, the positive health effects of living at high altitude were negligible. This study is for people who are already heart healthy!!
 

4. Physical Activity (walking, gardening, exercise) in Healthy People Living in High Altitudes Can Add Several Years to Life.  In high altitudes, walking every day, and or exercising for healthy people makes them fitter and able to exert themselves more. This is why some athletes like to train in higher altitudes.
Source: Harvard University Gazette
 

Our observation: After living in higher altitude and adapting to the thinner air and less oxygen, when we travel to sea level, it seems we have more energy and feel great!
 

All of the above makes sense only if the air is clean and pure however.  All the extra exertion and pretty scenery will do nothing for your health if on top of getting less oxygen, what oxygen you do get, is polluted, something to check into.

The bottom line, after doing some research seems to be that high elevation living is good mostly for those people who are already healthy and or were born in the high altitude. 

The research suggests that people with health conditions such as upper respiratory conditions or COPD do not do well in high altitudes, and to top it off, if the air is not clean, their condition is actually aggravated, and in some people that did not have a preexisting conidtion but may have had a slight sensitivity, they may develop one.

  Did you like this article? Well then, you might like these too!
To maximize your health further while living in a high altitude city, check out Better Health, Better Life.

We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!

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