Heart Function and High Altitudes

     Anyone who has climbed a mountain or lived above sea level will tell you that it is harder to function in that environment. When we talk about high altitudes we are talking about 3000m. We have known for quite some time that as the altitude increases; the lower the oxygen levels are in the air leads to a decrease in blood volume and an increase in blood pressure in the lungs. These factors result in a reduction in the volume of blood our hearts can send through the body. However, these factors don’t play into our inability to exercise efficiently at a high altitude.

            Researchers are researching the effects of high altitude exercise and comparing it to those who are better acclimated to elevation such as those of European descent. They are specifically looking at how the heart and pulmonary blood vessels adapt to the lack of oxygen. Admittedly, the research sample is smaller and the methods in which the readings will be taken are indirect and might not be as accurate as other, more invasive methods. However, the results will give us a better picture about how we fiction and will make high altitude activities safer and more enjoyable.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mike Stembridge, Philip N. Ainslie, Lindsey M. Boulet, James Anholm, Prajan Subedi, Michael M. Tymko, Christopher K. Willie, Stephen-Mark Cooper, Rob Shave. The independent effects of hypovolemia and pulmonary vasoconstriction on ventricular function and exercise capacity during acclimatisation to 3800 m. The Journal of Physiology, 2018; DOI: 10.1113/JP275278


The Physiological Society. "Why heart function is reduced at high altitude." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180529092127.htm>.