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High Blood Pressure Affected by Elevated Altitudes
- Updated: September 21, 2014
Mount Everest researchers have linked high blood pressure with high altitude. In a new study, Italian researchers discovered that blood pressure steadily increases with an ascent to heights. In addition, they found that a drug commonly used to treat hypertension was actually ineffective on climbers reaching a certain altitude.
The study findings were published in the European Heart Journal, which stated that not only could people at high altitudes be affected but also those at sea level who suffer from sleep apnea. With this condition, the airway is blocked, thereby causing a person to stop breathing temporarily.
As part of this study, 47 volunteers joined an expedition climbing to a Mount Everest base camp located 17,700 feet up in the mountains. All of the participants wore blood pressure monitors, with readings taken around the clock throughout the climb. The volunteers were randomized, some receiving 80 milligrams of Telmisartan, a popular medication used to treat hypertension and the others getting a placebo. In addition to receiving medication or a placebo, participants had their blood drawn.
It was found that when exposed to a high altitude (17,700 feet), systolic blood pressure increased 14 mmHg while diastolic blood pressure went up 10 mmHg over a 24-hour period. While there were no effects seen shortly after the group arrived at the base camp, researchers discovered a significant decrease in blood pressure for those who took the medication and participants who climbed down to 11,155 feet.
As stated by the lead researchers, the increase in blood pressure is due to a number of different factors. The most critical is the effects of oxygen deprivation associated with increased activity in the body’s sympathetic nervous system. With this, the heart is required to work harder and peripheral blood vessels constrict.
According to Gianfranco Parati, director of the Cardiology Research Laboratory at Milan’s Istituto Auxologico Italiano, the findings could have several implications for people with conditions that cause oxygen deprivation and those with diseases.
Based on the information gathered, experts believe patients with chronic diseases to include heart failure, severe obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, and worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, could benefit. Because more than 600 million people in the world suffer from these diseases, the study findings are incredible.
Parati concluded that with the findings, researchers will be able to take appropriate action to warn patients with cardiovascular disease of potential risk when exposed to higher altitudes.