How High Altitudes Affect Your Dementia Risk

Researchers examined the death records of people that died from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the state of California and found that those who lived in higher altitudes in the state were 50% less likely to die from the disease.How High Altitudes Affect Your Dementia Risk 

Learn more about the potential benefits of living at a higher altitude and what the study means for future research and prevention methods.

Living at Higher Altitudes May Reduce Your Dementia Risk

A recent study led by Dr. Stephen Thielke, MD, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at Puget Sound VA Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, found the people who live at higher altitudes may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 50%.

The study was published online in JAMA Psychiatry, and analyzed the death records of people who died from dementia over a one year period in various California counties in 2005, using California Department of Public Health records. They found that those who lived at the highest altitudes were half as likely to die from Alzheimer’s when compared to those living at the lowest altitudes. Researchers were encouraged by the study, writing:

“This analysis suggests that altitude of residence may impact the risk for dying of Alzheimer dementia.”

Other studies have shown that people living at higher altitudes are less likely to die from heart disease and are less likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

A Cautious Conclusion to How High Altitudes Affect Dementia

While the study has strong evidence linking higher altitude living with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, no causation could be established.

Director of global science initiative at the Alzheimer’s Association, James Hendrix explains:

“It could be that maybe if you live at high altitude, you’re living in a more rural environment. Maybe you’re getting more exercise and more opportunity to stay physically fit than if you were in an urban or suburban environment. That’s why it’s a pretty difficult thing to look at a paper like this and to draw a direct line between one factor and a result.”

Hendrix also notes the researchers did not consider how long subjects had lived at high or low altitudes.

More research need to be done to examine the exact relationship between higher altitude living and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s before making a move to the mountains for better brain health.

Have you seen a correlation between higher altitude living and brain health in yourself or a senior loved one? Share your story with us in the comments below. 

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Jack Cryer

    I think this definitely needs more research. I came across your blog as I was researching why after 5.5 years of leg pain, which goes into my body sometimes, that whilst spending 3 weeks in the Philippines, most of it between 1470 – 1600m above sea level I was pain free & only experienced pain on the 2nd day of a 2 day trip to the sea. Although my problem isn’t dementia, I believe it is a circulation problem & being pain free most likely had something to do with the barometeric pressure being lower & the extra oxygen being present in the Haemoglobin . Which makes me think that the barometric pressure could affect people with Alzheimer’s in a positive way, in that more oxygen would be carried in the blood which could prevent the plaques and tangles are often found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s & possible the same for Vascular Dementia.

  • BellaTerra66

    Then why is it that New Mexico has only a very slight difference, proportionately, than CA? I think it’s something like CA has 3.2% of the population with Alz and New Mexico has 3.1%. Not much difference.

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