Aging and altitude illustrated

Ever since I moved to the mountains I have been impressed by the number of older adults that pass me up on the trails hiking or mountain biking.

“Altitude is a fitness challenge in itself”, wrote Eric Swenson in the Journal of High Altitude Medicine and Biology May 2015. “Low fitness contributes to events” [altitude illness]

People who live in the mountains usually stay very active, like this hiking group from St. John the Baptist Episcopal church that goes out every week.

 

 

Two of these senior citizens hiking at 12,500 feet sleep on oxygen. They are residents living above 9,000 feet.

Two of these senior citizens hiking at 12,500 feet sleep on oxygen. They are residents living above 9,000 feet.

 

 

 

Aging is protective against Mountain Sickness at moderate altitude

A study of 2789 men and 1886 women aged 14 to 85 years old showed a reduced risk of altitude sickness above age 46. The study controlled for age, sex, rate of ascent, final altitude, training status and chemoreceptor responsiveness. Thirty subjects were also evaluated again after a ten year interval.Aging men showed a decreased response to hypoxia with less pronounced desaturation. Men and women had a decreased cardiac response to low oxygen as they aged.

In this article there were numerous citations  of other studies including one that showed an increased risk of severe high altitude illness in endurance athletes.

Jean-Paul Richalet,1,2 and Franc¸ ois J. Lhuissier1,2 High Altitude Medicine and biology June 2015