Even if you are lucky enough to survive a bleed on the brain, you are more than likely to experience life-long complications. Factors that contribute to a stroke risk include high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity, but could where you live really have an impact? A research paper – published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology – examined the incidence of stroke-related hospitalisation and death in people who lived at different altitudes. The data of more than 100,000 people were involved in the analysis, spanning across 17 years.
Strikingly, the study found that people living in higher altitudes have a lower risk of stroke and stroke-related death compared to those living in lower altitudes.
This “protective effect” is said to be “strongest between 2,000 and 3,500 metres”.
Those living in a higher altitude have had to adapt to living in an area where there is less oxygen availability.
This research study took place in Ecuador, a country in South America, as the presence of the Ecuadorian Andes means that people in the country live at a wide array of altitudes.
- Low altitude – under 1,500 metres
- Moderate altitude – 1,500 to 2,5000 metres
- High altitude – 2,500 to 3,500 metres
- Very high altitude – 3,500 to 5,500 metres.
Professor Esteban Ortiz-Prado said: “The main motivation of our work was to raise awareness of a problem that is very little explored.
“That is, more than 160 million people live above 2,500 metres and there is very little information regarding epidemiological differences in terms of stroke at altitude.”
Professor Ortiz-Prado added that his research contributed “new knowledge” that from a physiological view, people living at high altitude are different from those living at low altitudes.
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The results showed that people who lived at higher altitudes tended to experience stroke at a later age than those who lived at lower altitudes.
Furthermore, those living at higher altitudes were less likely to be hospitalised or die from stroke.
The hypothesis as to why this is goes as follows: “It may be that people who live at high altitude have adapted to the low oxygen conditions, and more readily grow new blood vessels to help overcome stroke-related damage.
“They may also have a more developed vascular network in their brains that helps them to make the most of the oxygen they intake, but this could also protect them from the worst effects of stroke.”
England is considered to have low altitude, so how can you minimise your risk of a stroke?
One of the best things you can do to minimise your stroke risk is to bring down high blood pressure.
The experts at the NHS advise you to undertake lifestyle adjustments, such as drinking less caffeine.
Caffeine is not only found in coffee, it is also found in tea, cola, and some energy drinks.
It is also helpful to minimise the amount of salt you consume, so do not add any extra to your cooking or food.
Furthermore, consistent exercise every day is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure and stroke risk in the long term.
Moreover, it will help to eat a low-fat, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
This one is a no-brainer, but being a non-smoker who is teetotal can also help you to bring down your blood pressure reading.