The Physiological Effects of High Altitude

3 min read

altitude sickness acclimitization

We all love the experience of hiking a great trail to enjoy a beautiful view of the valley below, but it's important for people traveling to high altitude to understand the risks of decreased oxygen at high altitudes.

Let's say you fly from Los Angeles to Denver, and that afternoon you travel to a trailhead at 8,000 ft and hike to a peak at over 10,000 ft. You were feeling great, but now you have a massive headache and feel nauseated. Unless you head down the mountain, you are in for more serious problems.

What is High Altitude?

High altitude is considered to be between 5,000 and 11,500 feet above sea level. Very high altitude is between 11,500 and 18,000 feet, and extreme altitude is anything above 18,000 feet. (See chart below.)

What Causes Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is the body’s physiological reaction to the low oxygen levels that exist at high altitudes. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) starts when acclimatization does not keep pace with your ascent to high altitude. This happens when you ascend to quickly or go from sea level to high altitudes in one day, and your body cannot get the oxygen it needs.

Even top endurance athletes know to get to a high altitude race location a few days early to acclimate.

Symptoms of altitude sickness include:

  • Headache (headache)
  • Fatigue (physical exhaustion)
  • Sleep Disorder
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Agitation
  • Vertigo

Can Anyone Get Altitude Sickness?

Anyone who goes to high altitude can get AMS. Age, gender, physical fitness or previous visits are not factors; whether you get sick is primarily determined by your genetics and how quickly you ascend.

Some people acclimatize quickly and have no problems; others acclimatize slowly and feel badly for a few days; and still others progress to the more serious forms of altitude sickness. There is no way to predict who is likely to get sick at high altitudes.

What Is Acclimatization?

The main cause of altitude sickness is ascending to high, too quickly. Flying to a high altitude destination does not allow the body to acclimate. With time, however, your body will adapt to the decrease in oxygen at a specific altitude. This process is known as acclimatization and generally takes one to three days at any given altitude. If you go from sea level to 5,000 feet and spend several days at that altitude, your body will acclimatize to 5,000 feet. If you then climb to 10,000 feet, your body has to acclimatize once again.

Your body undergoes a number of changes to adjust to the decreased oxygen levels at higher altitudes:

  • You breathe faster and deeper.
  • You experience shortness of breath with exertion.
  • You exhibit a different breathing pattern as you sleep.
  • You awaken more frequently at night.
  • Your body’s hematocrit level will increase as more red blood cells are produced.
  • You will urinate more frequently.
  • Your body increases production of an enzyme that causes the release of oxygen from hemoglobin to the body tissues.

All of these changes are a normal response to decreased oxygen levels.

Altitude RX Altitude Sickness Remedy

To help your body adjust to the effects of high altitude, a team of biomedical engineers developed a safe, natural remedy that reduces the symptoms of altitude sickness. Altitude RX is a breakthrough nutritional supplement that boosts the saturation of oxygen in your bloodstream and maximizes your metabolism. Taken just one day before traveling from low to high altitude and throughout your initial stay in the mountains, Altitude RX will help you feel as energized and healthy at high altitude as you do near sea level. 

Imagine being free to enjoy every moment of your trip to the mountains, feeling as energized and fit as the people who live year-round at high altitude

Order Altitude RX today and get peace of mind, knowing your adventure won't be cut short by a nasty bout with AMS.

Take the next step in your training regimen: Try any BRL Sports supplement risk-free! If our natural nutritional products aren’t the best you’ve ever used, simply return your purchase for a 100% refund — no questions asked!

Also in Inspiration & Perspiration

foods for metabolic efficiency
Off-Season Fuel Efficiency

2 min read

During off-season training periods, follow these tips to minimize weight gain by improving metabolic efficiency.

Read More
vegetables containing quercetin
Does Quercetin Enhance Endurance?

1 min read

There was excitement about initial studies on the effects of quercetin in mice, but studies in humans have not panned out.
Read More
cyclist riding into sunset
Foot Injury Prevention Tips For Cyclists

2 min read

Cycling is a low impact sport and yet many people still suffer from foot and leg injuries. Here are some quick tips to protect your feet.
Read More

Get the Inside Scoop