How High Altitudes Affect Your Dementia Risk

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 11, 2016

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.


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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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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