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Maximum Health? Live in the Mountains!

It’s no surprise that where you live can affect your health. People who live in big cities often have to contend with higher rates of pollution than country dwellers.

People who live in cold climates often have lower levels of vitamin D than those who live near the Equator.. We typically imagine that people who live in tropical paradises have lower stress levels than the rest of us. Even living close to a golf course can affect your health, as the pesticides used to keep the grass green may increase your risk of neurodegenerative disorders. (Unfortunately, the relaxation and exercise benefits you may be getting from living on the course won’t be enough to counteract this.) So location really does make a difference. But I bet you never realized that not only does where you live matter, how high you live matters as well.

Believe it or not, simply living at least a few hundred feet above sea level can decrease your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, characterized by high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and obesity. This syndrome, as you can imagine, contributes to a number of diseases, particularly heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. But according to research published in Frontiers in Physiology, you can decrease your risk of all these issues simply by moving into a mountain home.

Specifically, the researchers found that living between 457 and 2297 meters above sea level lowered your risk compared to living 0 to 121 meters. The higher you go, the lower your risk. The researchers evaluated data from thousands of individuals, which helped them rule out coincidences related to living near cities or heavily polluted areas or having a family history of heart disease. Even if you’re genetically predisposed to metabolic syndrome, living at a higher altitude can help you avoid it.

The researchers believe these results have to do with the lower amounts of oxygen at higher altitudes. There’s a reason that Olympic athletes often train up in the mountains. As your body adjusts to having less oxygen available, it’s able to use it more efficiently and circulate it through your body better. Your heart and lungs function better, you’re able to lose weight more easily, and insulin sensitivity improves.