A 15-year study from Greece found that people who live in mountainous areas live longer and are less likely to die of heart disease than those who reside in lowland areas.
The study focused on 1,150 residents of three Greek villages one located in a mountainous area approximately 3,000 feet above sea level, the other two located on the plains, The residents of all three villages have similar livelihoods—the women are usually homemakers, the men farm or raise livestock.
At the start of the study in 1981, blood samples and information on risk factors such as gender, age, weight, smoking habits, blood pressure and alcohol consumption were collected from each person.
This initial information suggested that, overall, men and women living in the mountain village had a poorer coronary heart disease risk profile than the people living in the two lowland villages. The mountain village residents had higher rates of circulating blood lipids and higher blood pressure
Yet over the following 15 years, the mountain village residents had lower death rates, including that caused by heart disease, compared with the residents of the lowland villages.
Because they had higher blood lipids and blood pressure, researchers conclude that other factors must have had a "protective effect. They speculate that the lower death rate of the mountain residents may be due to long-term physiological changes that enable the body to adapt to lower levels of oxygen. This, along with the effort required to regularly walk uphill on rough terrain, could provide the mountain residents with better workouts for the heart, the researchers say.
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