Very little is known about the health impacts of living at high altitude. Most permanent high altitude populations have adapted to living at high altitude over thousands of years. Compared to other high altitude communities around the globe, Rocky Mountain inhabitants have lived at altitude for the shortest amount of time and are the least adapted. For this reason, our community reflects the perfect population for a living laboratory focused on discovering the effects of living at high altitude.
Studying the Effects of Altitude on the Human Body
The High Altitude Research Center will nurture the health of our community by serving as a living laboratory focused on discovering the effects of living at high altitude. Most permanent high altitude dwellers across the world living at 7,000 feet show excellent adaption to living at altitude. Existing literature suggests that adaption to altitude relates to duration living at altitude and genetics. Compared to other populations that live at altitude across the world, Rocky Mountain region inhabitants have lived at altitude for the shortest amount of time and are the least adapted. Little is known about the impact of living at altitude on health and wellness. High altitude hypertension, a condition that can lead to significant impairment of quality of life, affects between 5-23% of the world population but has never been studied thoroughly in Colorado Rocky communities where the diagnosis may be more common than in the general population. The seminal study at the High Altitude Research Center will seek to identify the prevalence of pulmonary hypertension in Summit County’s full time residents.
This motivated Johnson to reach out to other researchers around the globe, which gave birth to the idea of starting a long-term, large scale research project in Summit County, the only high-altitude population in the world that’s been established within the last two generations.
There are some things commonly associated with either visiting or living at high altitude, such as sleep disturbances, and temporary or permanent lowering of oxygen levels, and increased blood pressure, for example.
“We don’t know what we don’t know, and there has never been a large population-based study anywhere in the world,” Denkinger explains.
But beyond identifying baselines of demographics as well as medical histories and conditions, Denkinger insists the team wants to be able to provide information to everyone in this environment so they can better manage their health.