Mountain Climbers Over 55
People over 55 yr are 2.6 times less likely to suffer from acute mountain sickness than mountain climbers under 25 year old, said a study in High Altitude Medical Biology. The journal article noted the reason for these statistics, "self-medication, including acetazolamide and analgesics, had increased importantly from 17% to 56%, and contraception intake in women had increased from 19% to 32%." Researchers concluded, "in 1998 as compared to 1986, trekkers were older, climbed more slowly, had better awareness of altitude illness, used more medication, and suffered less from AMS." (Gaillard, S., P. Dellasanta, et al. (2004). "Awareness, prevalence, medication use, and risk factors of acute mountain sickness in tourists trekking around the Annapurnas in Nepal: a 12-year follow-up." High Alt Med Biol 5(4): 410-419.)
Prevention Starts with Awareness
No matter what age you are healthy adjustment to high altitudes starts with awareness. Consider what medications you are taking. Talk to your doctor about whether they will help you or hinder you as you set off for the mountains around Denver, Colorado or the mountains of Peru.
Another study recommended self assessment on climbs. "Acute mountain sickness is a common problem among adolescents. There are increasing numbers of adolescents traveling to high altitudes, and there appears to be a lack of information about the prevalence of acute mountain sickness in this age group. Motivated adolescents seemed capable of self-monitoring." -Imray, C. H., C. H. Kennedy, et al. (2004). "Self-assessment of acute mountain sickness in adolescents: a pilot study." Wilderness Environ Med 15(3): 202-206.
Know the symptoms of altitude sickness: difficulty sleeping, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath.
Tibetan Medicine for Heart Health
In a study to explore the protective effects of Tibetan medicine Zuo-Mu-A Decoction (ZMAD) on high altitude sickness, researchers found, "The cardiac muscle fibers were well-protected, mitochondrial matrix swelled mildly and ultrastructure changes were less prominent in the ZMAD group compared with the model group. ZMAD has the beneficial effect in protecting against myocardial injury." - Lu, M. Q., N. Tsring, et al. (2017). "Protective effects of traditional Tibetan medicine Zuo-Mu-A Decoction () on the blood parameters and myocardium of high altitude polycythemia model rats." Chin J Integr Med 23(12): 908-915.
Coca for Altitude Adjustment, Learning from History and Other Cultures
Tea made from coca leaves is available in many hotels and restaurants in Peru as travelers visit Cusco at 11,152 feet or 3,399m on their way to Machu Picchu. A 2015 study in Wilderness Environmental Medicine found, "the use of coca leaf for medicinal purposes is a centuries-old tradition of the native peoples of South America. Coca products are thought by many laypersons to provide risk-free benefits to users participating in strenuous activities at high altitude. Physiologic studies of coca have increased understanding of its possible mechanism of action as well as its potential impact on high altitude activities." - Biondich, A. S. and J. D. Joslin (2015). "Coca: High Altitude Remedy of the Ancient Incas." Wilderness Environ Med 26(4): 567-571.
Self-Massage and the Pericardium 6 Point. This is an acupressure point.
Acupressure for Lung 1 point and Breathing Exercises. This is an acupressure point.
Water for Brain Health. Always make sure you are drinking enough water.
Never Sleep While It Is Light
What time you arrive at your destination makes a difference in how well you adapt to time changes. One folk remedy for jet lag is "never, never sleep while it is light." This is easier to follow if you arrive at your destination in the evening as it is getting dark.
A study looking at athletes traveling for competition noted, "results from the current study suggest that sleep disruption, as a result of an early travel departure time (8 PM) and evening match (7:30 PM), and fatigue induced by competition had a greater effect on wellness ratings than long-haul air travel with a minimal time-zone change. " - Fowler, P., R. Duffield, et al. (2015). "Effects of northbound long-haul international air travel on sleep quantity and subjective jet lag and wellness in professional Australian soccer players." Int J Sports Physiol Perform 10(5): 648-654.
Acupuncture or Acupressure
Muscle stiffness from long haul travel and unusual hiking or walking in travel destinations can contribute to insomnia. Acupuncture or self administered acupressure can help. A research report in pain management noted, "Acupuncture is observed clinically to improve sleeping in chronic pain patients." -Hayhoe, S. (2017). "Insomnia: can acupuncture help?" Pain Manag 7(1): 49-57.
Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine)
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I am looking for guest blog opportunities and a position as poet-in-residence. My current project is writing dictionary poems using words in different languages for the English word "peace." You can read some of my poems on Poemhunter .
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