Dr. Deborah Liptzen, pediatric pulmonologist from Children’s Hospital of Colorado,
Presents a talk on high altitude to the Ebert Family Clinic staff
I learned several new facts about adaptation to altitude that make us better athletes. First, our muscles have more capillaries to deliver blood to the cells. Second, the cells have more mitochondria which are organelles involved in the chemistry of respiration and energy production.
Other ways our bodies respond to altitude include: increased breathing rate (instant), increased red blood cells (peaks in three months), hemoglobin in red cells holds on to more oxygen, and blood vessels in the lungs constrict (immediate).It is this constriction of blood vessels in the lungs that can go haywire putting pressure on the capillaries causing fluid leaks that lead to pulmonary edema or HAPE.