The amount of people living and working at higher altitude has increased thanks to the advances we’ve made in technology with new rail, road and air systems we’ve been easily able to commute to higher climates but how is this going to affect us especially our health?
Its been estimated that in the west of the U.S alone up to 30 million people either travel or live at heights over 5000 feet. But can we function as well up there as we can at sea levels. We all know that the body requires oxygen to function, normal air contains about 2o% oxygen but as we increase in altitude the levels of oxygen lowers in proportion and we find that our lungs have to work harder to take in the same amount. The problems from lack of oxygen or altitude sickness can range from blackouts to extreme conditions of seizures and coma. The body does adapt to the changes over time by increasing the amount of red cell production but how else can our bodies be affected?
Research was done on a group of climbers who had traveled to Everest and after a year, it was found that 13 out of the 16 couldn’t tap their fingers as fast as they could before the climb, these finding wasn’t just limited to this group other studies even on elite climbers found the they also suffered this condition for between 2-10 months after climbing in high altitude.
You may be thinking, “Well that’s climbers that got nothing to do with me” but even at 12,000 ft your body’s oxygen level could be so low that if your body was like this at sea level you would be entitled to medical care.
So..what does mean to you? Should you pack your oxygen tank for that skiing weekend break? Probably not. But don’t expect your body to perform as well as it does at sea level!