Living At High Altitude


| 2/24/2017 10:28:00 AM


Tags: altitude sickness, Bruce McElmurray, Colorado,

 

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We have lived at 9,800’ elevation for almost 20 years and residing at high elevation is physiologically different than living at sea level. Our body reacts much differently at this altitude than it does at sea level. Going from near sea level to anything over 7000’ elevation our bodies go through a noticeable change.

Altitude Sickness

In addition to the beautiful majestic mountains and pure fresh air there is a diminishing amount of oxygen that our bodies need to operate efficiently. There is a condition known as altitude sickness which can be temporary or long lasting. Not everyone will immediately adjust to the ‘thinner air’ regardless of their physical fitness and may suffer headaches, lack of energy, dizziness, nausea and trouble sleeping. Altitude sickness can be moderate to severe. In the severe cases it is best to quickly get to a lower elevation.

Diminishing Oxygen At High Elevation

After about 7000’ altitude the saturation of oxygen in our body tends to plummet. The body needs to adapt to the lower amount of oxygen available and that can be either short term or long term depending on the individual person. Some people’s bodies adapt to the lower oxygen levels more quickly and they can perform normally after a short period of time. In other cases some do not adjust well and we see those folks carrying around portable oxygen bottles to get the necessary oxygen their bodies need to function properly. It is claimed that some people who live at higher elevations have a lower mortality rate and have less obesity but I surmise that could be attributed more to outdoor physical activity.

Physiological Changes At High Altitude

We have noticed that we both breathe deeper which is possibly related to the thinner air at this elevation. Initially it slowed us down but not so much now. We also noticed a slightly faster heart rate which is probably attributed to the blood being pumped to more vital areas of the body. In short if you visit or live at higher elevations be prepared for bodily function changes. When Carol visits family in Florida she notes that she sleeps less but more soundly and her energy level is significantly increased at sea level. When she returns to the mountains she goes through a process of altitude adjustment.




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