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People at high altitudes have lower risk of heart disease: Study

New study finds that people who live at higher altitudes have lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

By Amy Wallace
People at high altitudes have lower risk of heart disease: Study
Researchers have found that people living at high altitudes are less likely ot develop metabolic syndrome, which leads to increased risk of heart attack, stroke or diabetes, than people who live in lower altitudes. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI/Archivo

Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Research from the University of Navarra in Spain has found a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes for people living at higher altitudes.

The new study shows there is a decreased incidence of metabolic syndrome, which is the combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels and excess fat around the waist contributing to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, in individuals who live at higher altitudes.

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"We found that those people living between 457 to 2297 meters, had a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome than those living at sea level [0 to 121 meters]," Amaya Lopez-Pascual, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Physiology, the Center of Nutrition Research at the University of Navarra and study author, said in a press release.

"Unfortunately, metabolic syndrome is very common and increasing worldwide. For example, 34 percent of the U.S. population suffers metabolic syndrome. Our research will help us understand what factors contribute to its development."

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The study was comprised of data from the Spanish SUN project, which had participants submit their health information twice a year since 1999. The data from thousands of initially healthy participants was used to track the development of metabolic syndrome in relation to the altitude where they lived.

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Results showed that the higher the altitude where a person lived, the less likely they were to develop metabolic syndrome regardless of family history.

"Living or training at high altitudes or under a simulated hypoxic [oxygen deficient] environment seems to help with heart and lung function, losing weight, and improves insulin sensitivity," Pedro Gonzalez-Muniesa, associate professor at the University of Navarra and co-senior author of the study, said in a press release. "We found our results were independent of the genetic background of the individuals."

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The study was published in Frontiers in Physiology.

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