While the mountain air may be refreshing and offer respite from the heat, it is not so good for your heart. A new study improves our understanding of how the human body adapts to high altitude areas. It reveals that at high altitudes (over 3000 m), the lower amount of oxygen in the air leads to a decrease in the volume of blood circulating around the body, and an increase in blood pressure in the lungs.The findings are important for people who live, travel and exercise at high altitudes.
The study came about when a team of researchers from The Physiological Society decided to explore the reasons behind why heart function is found to be reduced at high altitudes. They based the study on earlier research that shows that high altitude reduces the amount of blood the heart pumps around the body with each beat.
Several theories have been proposed over the years to explain the reduction in the amount of blood the heart can pump. It was even studied by scientists who were involved in the first summit of Mt Everest in the 1950s.
What the study shows
Researchers in the current study found that the decrease in volume of blood and increase in blood pressure can both play a role in the reduction in the volume of blood the heart can pump with each beat. But, more importantly, neither of these factors affects our ability to perform maximal exercise.
The research was conducted during two weeks at a remote research facility called The Barcroft Laboratory on White Mountain, California. It is important to note that the sample size for this study was small and the effects of these mechanisms were only compared in individuals of European descent. Furthermore, echocardiography was used to assess cardiac and pulmonary vascular function which is non-invasive and indirect. The study is published in The Journal of Physiology.
Here are 3 more thing you need to know about your heart health:
* Your blood group can increase risk of heart attack
A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology, which involved 1.3 million respondents, found that people living with ‘non-O blood groups’ (A,B, and AB) are at nine percent higher risk of cardiovascular problems (and heart attacks in particular), and also have a shorter life expectancy.
* Exercises can help heart attack patients live longer
A study done by Swedish researchers followed 22,000 heart attack survivors aged 18-74, and found that those who boosted their exercise levels after being discharged from the hospital, halved their risk of dying within the first four years. A previous study had shown that daily exercise could lower chances of heart attack for people who have a family history of cardiovascular problems.
* Eat fatty fish for a healthy heart
A study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research shows that consuming fatty fish up to four times a week and adding and camelina oil to your diet may help increase the amount of good cholesterol and prevent risk of heart disease.