04.18.14

Training at altitude

Question

Hi. I live in miami fl and i  have an altitude question.
I’m racing las vegas half ironman 70.3 world championship on sept 8 2013, however I’m planning on going to Bogota
Colombia (27000mts/ 9000feet) between august 23 to sep 2 and then sep 2 go to las vegas for the race.
How do you think will that affect my race?? what can i do to prepare for my race in terms of altitude?
Thank you so much for any thoughts on the subject.

Answer
Thank you for your questions about exercise in relation to high altitude.

Training in a high altitude environment to improve athletic performance at sea level (or close to sea level)
is a popular technique amongst athletes from many different disciplines, particularly those involved in
endurance sports. However, despite the many people using altitude exposure as a means of gaining a competitive
edge, the scientific justification for altitude training is limited. In particular, there are no high quality
studies of altitude exposure comparing this with the same training at sea level altitudes.

Regarding the research that has been published, in some studies people living and training at altitude improved
their subsequent athletic performance at sea level, although this has not been replicated in all studies.
There may also be some people who will respond to altitude exposure whilst others will not. However, the
duration of exposure to altitude in these studies was usually around 3-4 weeks; some would suggest that at least
2 weeks would be required to obtain any physiological benefit from altitude exposure. Therefore the duration of
time for which you are in Bogotá may be too brief to provide you with any significant benefit.

It is difficult to predict how your time in Bogotá will affect your athletic performance at the 70.3 in Las Vegas.
The altitude in Bogotá is not so high that you are likely to suffer from altitude illness (although this is
possible). However, the reduced amount of oxygen in the atmosphere will mean that your maximal exercise efforts
will be reduced. Further, you will also have to work harder to achieve the same absolute work rate compared to
undertaking the same session at sea level. This can result in a slower pace for a fixed work rate training
session, something which is worth bearing in mind when undertaking training sets at altitude. Heart rate will
also be increased during submaximal exercise, which should also be taken into account if you use heart rate
monitoring during training.

I will also be racing in Las Vegas; I hope you have a
great time.

Regards,

Dr Alistair Simpson MBChB MSc FRCA

| Posted in Questions to the mountain doc team | Comments Off on Training at altitude
04.18.14

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and altitude

Question

Hi doc,

I currently live in pennsylvania and am wanting to move to Colorado. altitude of 8,747. My delima is, I have COPD. I have medicine for it but since i quit smoking i haven’t had to take it. My pulmonologist said that my breathing is better. I have never had to be on oxygen either. Is it possible for me to live in that altitude? Even if I took different meds to do it?    Thank you for your time.

 

Answer

Thank you for your question. At 8747ft, there is only 74% of the oxygen that is available at sea level.  For a person with any kind of lung disease, this can pose both short and long term problems.  As for anyone ascending to altitude, initially there will be a drop in your blood oxygen content.  However, for people with lung disease ascent to relatively modest altitudes can lead to more significant shortness of breath and a reduction in how far you can walk or how much you can exercise. During short term exposures to altitude (or on board aircraft) some people may even require supplemental oxygen.  This is something your pulmonologist can assess as it will depend on the severity of your condition.  With very mild lung disease supplemental oxygen may not be required and after a period of acclimatisation you may find your symptoms are similar to what they were at sea level.

 

However, longer term health problems also need to be considered. There are published studies which suggest that people with COPD who live at altitude don’t live as long as those living at sea level.  A possible explanation for this is the recognised consequence of lung disease causing strain on the heart. With less oxygen available in the air, blood vessels in the lung tend to constrict and this increases the workload of the right-hand side of the heart. Over time this can lead to a form of heart failure. Again your pulmonologist can arrange tests to assess your heart. If there is evidence of high pressure in blood vessels supplying the lungs, the safest approach is to avoid travel to altitude.

Dr Roger Thompson

Please remember Any answers we give are general: since we do not have access to your own health records we are unable to make specific recommendations about your health or treatment. All enquiries or concerns about your own health should be directed to your physician. Your email and any answer will be published at altitude.org/mountain_doc.php. If you do not agree to this then please to not post a question here.

| Posted in Questions to the mountain doc team | Comments Off on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and altitude
04.18.14

Altitude and Migraines

Question

I have a friend who is training to climb Mt. Rainier (14,410’) next month.  She has pre-existing migraines.  We have trained a few days on the mountain – up to 10,188’ this past week.  Every time she goes, it triggers a migraine.  She is even taking some migraine meds as a preventative before she goes.

Do you have any advice?

Answer

There is very little objective evidence on this subject. It has been reported that those people who suffer from migraines have an increased risk of high altitude headache but there are no studies to prove this. There is possibly a similar mechanism behind the two conditions.
One study has shown that migraines can be triggered by low levels of oxygen leading to dilatation of vessels. Other evidence points to both altitude headache and migraine being linked to the activation of a particular neuro-vascular system (the trigemino-vascular system).
It is important to distinguish a migraine headache from an altitude headache. Altitude headaches do not usually have any neurological type symptoms like an aura, sight problems or being unilateral however they can cause vomiting, significant incapacity and irritability.
There is no contraindication for taking migraine prophylaxis at altitude. The UIAA recommends those who suffer from migraine should carry analgesic drugs that have previously proven effective for their migraines as well as preventatives.
Please remember Any answers we give are general: since we do not have access to your friend’s health records we are unable to make specific recommendations about her health or treatment.I would suggest your friend sees her physician. Your email and any answer will be published at altitude.org/mountain_doc.php. If you do not agree to this then please rsvp. 
I hope this helps.

Dr Kitty Duncan

| Posted in Questions to the mountain doc team | Comments Off on Altitude and Migraines