Higher Altitude Means Much Lower Death Rates

A new study from Austria reports “Lower mortality rates in those living at moderate altitude“. As we’ll see here, higher altitude means much lower death rates.

Here’s a graph showing death from colon cancer in men, and breast cancer in women, by altitude:


Death rates from both of these cancers were about half as high at an altitude of greater than 1000 meters (3300 feet).  The study also found about a 30% reduction in deaths from coronary artery disease at >1000 meters.

This accords well with a number of other studies. For example, “Lower Mortality From Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke at Higher Altitudes in Switzerland“. This study found 22% less heart disease death for every +1000 meters in altitude, and 12% less stroke death.

Association Between Alzheimer Dementia Mortality Rate and Altitude in California Counties“: This study found about half the death rate from Alzheimer’s at an altitude of 1600 meters vs that at sea level.

There’s less diabetes at high altitude.

Are there population differences, so that genes play a role? Not likely. The studies adjust for it, e.g. the first study confined results to towns of <20,000 population to control for migration from elsewhere; migrants overwhelmingly live in cities. Also, there’s increased death from COPD and respiratory infections at higher altitudes, so if there were some kind of general wealth or IQ effect, we wouldn’t see this.

What’s going on here?

In a word, hormesis, which is the biological response to low doses of toxins or stressors that results in making the organism healthier and stronger. It results in lower incidence of the diseases of aging, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. One of the main ways that hormesis works is through activation of the Nrf2 system, which increases cellular defenses.

Hormetic factors at play with higher altitude include

  • hypoxia, or less oxygen
  • background radiation — from being surrounded by massive rock formations
  • solar radiation, including cosmic rays — from less atmosphere to block them
  • exercise — walking around at high altitude (up and down) is more strenuous than at sea level
  • iron: at higher altitudes, humans have higher hemoglobin, which requires iron, and thus ferritin levels are lower

Non-hormetic factors could be cleaner air and higher blood levels of vitamin D from all the sunshine.

Seems that someone really serious about an anti-aging program would do well to consider moving to the mountains. Lower obesity rates are also found in the mountains.


PS: For more on anti-aging, see my book, Stop the Clock.


PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.




Leave a Comment:

Jason says October 11, 2016

This is really fascinating. Thanks.

Nathan Vilez says October 11, 2016

And how about the possibility that more iron is sequestered into manufacturing higher hemoglobin in response to the lower oxygen levels at high altitude, thus lower feritin levels.

Montgomery says October 13, 2016

Speaking of high altitude, there was a problem with livestock in the higher altitudes in the Andes – sheep and goats appeared to be exhausted – and had almost no offspring. Reason: They were not in the mood for sex.
The issue was dealt with by feeding them Maca – a kind of potatoish-looking root that only grows in high altitudes. The effect was immediate and drastic – livestock had lots of sex again (more so than before, actually) and reproduction went on alright.

Maca also works in humans, but roughly 20% of us seem to be non-responders.
In those it worked, it increased sexual desire and function noticeably, sometimes drastically.

Because something that works so well attracted attention, and there are lots of studies around.
Maca seems to be quite effective at increasing testosterone, sperm count, sexual desire, and sexual
“performance” – in one study, average orgasm frequency in Maca-fed mice went from 13 to 60 orgasms in three hours (mice clearly are different from us).
While they had it in the lab, it was tested for other aspects of health, and there is a lot of data, too.

Maca is cheap, and it is very probably totally safe – it is eaten by the indigenous people in the Andes
for centuries as a staple food.

My own experience is that is works – I am definitely sure of its effects; even at small amounts eaten
per day (3g) I notice positive effects.
One drawback would be that the effects do not last – after a few weeks the improvements seem to abide –
but will be restored when Maca consumption is stopped for about two months.

Maca also improves endurance and possibly muscle function, but, of course, you will do your own research;
I only, therefore, give one source:


    Montgomery says October 13, 2016

    I think you will like that one, especially:

    “… and upregulation of *****autophagy*****-related proteins in cortex.”

    P. D. Mangan says October 13, 2016

    Montgomery, thanks for that. I’d never heard of maca before, am researching it right now. Very interesting.

Montgomery says October 13, 2016

Sorry, I am not a native English speaker, correction:
“after a few weeks the improvements seem to abide” must be
“after a few weeks the improvements seem to ABATE”

Rick Duker says January 28, 2017

Ray Peat writes about the benefits of higher CO2 in the blood. Living at higher altitudes produces this naturally. He is an advocate of breathing into a paper bag for several minutes at a time to produce the same effect.

    Rick Duker says January 28, 2017

    Other ways this might be accomplished are breathing intermittently through one nostril or exercising mildly with only nostril breathing.

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