Altitude Tips

Top Ten High Altitude Health Tips

If you’re headed up the the high country for some skiing, boarding, or hiking you should be prepared for the altitude.  Those of us who live the bulk of our lives as flat-landers will need some time to acclimate to the thin dry air of the mountains.  Here’s a quick list that may help you avoid the nasty effects of altitude sickness, and get you onto the activities you really want to do.

  1. Spend at least a day acclimating to the altitude. Easing into your vacation will improve your chances of avoiding high altitude issues.
  2. Avoid maximum physical exertion for the first 1-2 days. Exercise at higher elevations increases your muscles’ demand for oxygen and can effectively “steal” oxygen away from other vital organs.
  3. Stay hydrated with water and sports drinks. Because of the low humidity in Colorado’s mountain environment it is easy to become dehydrated. Moisture loss from perspiration during exercise and rapid breathing at higher elevations can result in dry nose, throat, and mouth as well as dizziness. Drinking at least 3-4 quarts of water and sports drinks per day allows the body to stay hydrated. The heart is able to pump more effectively when you are properly hydrated.
  4. Use humidifiers in sleeping areas. Utilize humidifiers to keep sleeping areas moisturized.
  5. Limit alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Alcohol and caffeine act as diuretics and can hasten dehydration. Keep in mind that one alcoholic beverage at altitude has the effect of three at sea level.
  6. Avoid sleeping pills and narcotics. Sleeping pills and pain killers will decrease respiration causing interrupted sleep.
  7. Avoid eating large meals. Heavy meals force the body to direct much of its blood supply to the stomach for digestion, decreasing oxygen supply to your other vital organs.
  8. Eat small, low fat, high carbohydrate meals. Your body needs long lasting energy and easy-to-digest foods to adjust to altitude.
  9. Finish eating at least 3-4 hours before bedtime. It is important to allow your body time to digest foods before going to bed. Doing so allows the body to focus on the transportation of oxygen.
  10. Limit time in hot tubs and saunas. Prolonged exposure to elevated temperatures slows your heart, reducing its ability to circulate oxygen effectively.

Published March 2012

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