Getting High Is Good For You

Since surrounding yourself with a healthy radioactive glow is not practical for most people, there’s fortunately another solution – settle down higher up.

That way, presumably, you get to soak up more beneficent, hormetic cosmic rays.

Voss, J. D., P. Masuoka, B. J. Webber, A. I. Scher, and R. L. Atkinson. 2013. “Association of Elevation, Urbanization and Ambient Temperature with Obesity Prevalence in the United States.” International Journal of Obesity 37 (10): 1407–12.

… After controlling for urbanization, temperature category and behavioral and demographic factors, male and female Americans living o 500 m above sea level had 5.1 (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.7–9.5) and 3.9 (95% CI 1.6–9.3) times the odds of obesity, respectively, as compared with counterparts living X 3000 m above sea level.

Faeh, David, Felix Gutzwiller, Matthias Bopp, and Swiss National Cohort Study Group. 2009. “Lower Mortality from Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke at Higher Altitudes in Switzerland.” Circulation 120 (6): 495–501.

Being born at altitudes higher or lower than the place of residence was associated with lower or higher risk… The protective effect of living at higher altitude on coronary heart disease and stroke mortality was consistent and became stronger after adjustment for potential confounders. Being born at high altitude had an additional and independent beneficial effect on coronary heart disease mortality.

Hart, John. 2010. “Cancer Mortality in Six Lowest Versus Six Highest Elevation Jurisdictions in the U.S.Dose-Response: A Publication of International Hormesis Society 9 (1): 50–58.

The present study compares archived cancer mortality rates in six low versus six high elevation jurisdictions. The study also compares mortality rates for all causes, heart disease, and diabetes in low versus high elevation jurisdictions in an effort to see if other mortality outcomes are different in low versus high elevations. Statistically significant decreases in mortality, with very large effect sizes, were observed in high land elevation for three of the four outcomes, including cancer. One possible explanation for the decreased mortality in high elevation jurisdictions is radiation hormesis. Another possible explanation, at least in the case of heart disease mortality, is the physiologic responses that accompany higher elevations regarding decreased oxygen levels.

Burtscher, Martin. 2016. “Lower Mortality Rates in Those Living at Moderate Altitude.Aging 8 (10): 2603–4.

Individuals living at moderate altitudes (up to about 2000 m) were shown to have lower mortality from coronary artery disease (CAD) and stroke (-22% and -12% per 1000 m) [1] and an about 50% lower risk of dying from Alzheimer’s disease compared with their counterparts living at lower altitudes [2]. In contrast, reported altitude effects on cancer mortality are still conflicting [3]. However, due to shared risk factors, e.g. obesity and diabetes, in cardiovascular disease and cancer a shared biology for both disease entities may be assumed [4]. Therefore, it is hypothesized that mortality from certain cancers will decline with increasing altitude as demonstrated for CAD. …

The general life expectancy, e.g. in 2009, increased from low altitude (<251 m) to higher altitudes (1001 to about 2000 m) by about 2 years, in males from 76.7 to 79.1 years and in females from 82.1 to 84.1 years [5].

Thielke, Stephen, Christopher G. Slatore, and William A. Banks. 2015. “Association Between Alzheimer Dementia Mortality Rate and Altitude in California Counties.JAMA Psychiatry 72 (12): 1253–54.

Sherpa, Lhamo Y., Deji, Hein Stigum, Virasakdi Chongsuvivatwong, Dag S. Thelle, and Espen Bjertness. 2010. “Obesity in Tibetans Aged 30–70 Living at Different Altitudes under the North and South Faces of Mt. Everest.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 7 (4): 1670–80.

BMI, WC and WHtR decreased with increasing altitude. The mechanism for these differences are not known, and we were not able to explain this by lower energy intake or increased physical activity. It is likely that the physical conditions such as low temperatures and low oxygen levels have a direct catabolic effect.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. anonymous coward says

    Not really news, people knew this since forever.

    That said, it’s not a big deal. Simply not eating sugar probably has a hundredfold more positive effect compared to altitude.

  2. Obesity in Tibetans Aged 30–70 Living

    I don’t know very much about Tibet, but I am surprised that there would be any obesity there, could this be the recent Han arrivals?

  3. “Another possible explanation, at least in the case of heart disease mortality, is the physiologic responses that accompany higher elevations regarding decreased oxygen levels.”

    It’s the oxygen. While radiation is not too bad for you, oxygen most certainly is. It’s very toxic – just think about it. It is an oxidizer of choice in many/most rocket designs. You are basically walking around inhaling rocket fuel component day in and day out. This can’t be good for you, it’s not even good for rockets (they have various cracking and corrosion issues they have to deal with).

    Of course, we evolved defenses to survive such as dismutases and antioxidants, so we get by. But we were forced to – molecular oxygen is alien to this planet. Planet Earth used to have a beautiful atmosphere of carbon dioxide and water vapor, with some sulphur oxides thrown in. It was wonderful and mild.

    And then 2-3 billion of years ago cyanobacteria showed up, invented photosynthesis, and killed everybody by poisoning the atmosphere with oxygen (they dont call it Great Oxygen Holocaust for nothing). If it wasn’t for that, our lifespans would measure in the 10,000’s of years. We would also probably be some sort of networked moss like creatures, which sounds pretty cool.

    To us, Earth looks like a beautiful pale blue dot. But to any right thinking alien, Earth is a toxic waste dump filled with icky slimy things and contaminated with rocket fuel ingredients. Hence the Fermi paradox – visiting Earth is like visiting your relatives in rural Alabama. Yes, they are life forms, but do you really want to? I mean, honestly.

    TLDR – radiation is OK, oxygen bad, and if I were an upstanding procaryote some 3 billion years ago, I would totally sign a petition to genocide cyanobacteria before they got up to their tricks.

  4. If it is simply oxygen level, then it could be adjusted in an artificial habitat, such as a space colony.

    Still, I wonder where the ideal place would be to gestate, mature, or even do high level-thinking. The Tibetan Plateau definitely has some downsides for people not evolved for it, but could be there are also small differences at much lower altitudes.

    Generally, I’m not a big believer in hyperlocal HBD, but if there are local differences in propensities to behaviors, I bet it has something to do with mountains or stoney ground and herding vs. farming.

  5. I’m pretty sure it’s the oxygen. The Buteyko method shows the way to stop overbreathing.

    Now I think we should start a shitstorm with Mr. Hack and Mikhail about whether Buteyko was a Russian or a Ukrainian.

  6. Exactly!

    There are perhaps gazillions of ways to better than equalize the equation, considering the average health of a human being.

  7. Einstein (and others) have said that the farther away from center mass one gets, the slower time moves. Astronauts leave, come back, and their children are older than said sires. To live a long life one must escape from the sea.

  8. Toronto Russian says

    Getting High Is Good for You

    The art of the headline.

    I don’t know very much about Tibet, but I am surprised that there would be any obesity there, could this be the recent Han arrivals?

    Image searched “people in the street in Tibet”, saw fat ladies in folk dress.

    There’s no Asian magic that prevents obesity, anybody can get there if they eat enough (Sumo wrestlers for example). There’s much better access to food in modern Tibet, let alone around Mount Everest with all that tourism money.

    There are perhaps gazillions of ways to better than equalize the equation, considering the average health of a human being.

    Being rich is the best anti-aging plan. Most places of outstanding longevity are sea-level millionaire havens. Many celebrities, despite their unhealthy lifestyle of partying and drugs, remain very vital in old age. Maybe they go to mountain ski resorts a lot:)

  9. Richer people = higher IQ, less genetic load.

    That is the best anti-aging plan.