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Altitude problems?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Since I am not a doctor, I am hesitant about calling it altitude sickness. I am 67 years old and go to the gym 3 times a week for general fitness training. I started with 12 lessons from a PhD. in conditioning. He also is the trainer from a local college team. Anyway, I head up to the Sierras every year for a little fishing and hiking at about 8000 feet. This year I had signs of weakness, insomnia and shortness of breath while in bed, of all places. What say you? Thanks...

post #2 of 11
Did you have a recent upper respiratory infection? Have you checked your blood oxygen saturation? I used to go to the mountains from 660 feet above sea level without significant issues, but some time in my late 50s/earlly 60s, I started having shortness of breath, lack of stamina and headaches at altitude. I have learned in the last couple of years (I'm 74 now) that I had pulmonary hypertension, with pressures twice the normal maximum, now treated medicinally.
post #3 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryO View Post
 

Since I am not a doctor, I am hesitant about calling it altitude sickness. I am 67 years old and go to the gym 3 times a week for general fitness training. I started with 12 lessons from a PhD. in conditioning. He also is the trainer from a local college team. Anyway, I head up to the Sierras every year for a little fishing and hiking at about 8000 feet. This year I had signs of weakness, insomnia and shortness of breath while in bed, of all places. What say you? Thanks...

Have you read the EpicSki Article about dealing with high altitude?  My sense is that it's not uncommon for altitude to be a problem inconsistently.  Definitely true that the level of fitness is not that related to whether or not someone has issues at high altitude.

 

http://www.epicski.com/atype/9/First_Run/tag/altitude-sickness/

 

Using the link I added under Topics Discussed (right hand column) is the easiest way to find threads related to altitude adjustment.

post #4 of 11

I'd say this is one of those times that you shouldn't use the internet (epicski of all places) for medical advice and actually visit a doctor.

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MastersRacer View Post
 

I'd say this is one of those times that you shouldn't use the internet (epicski of all places) for medical advice and actually visit a doctor.


I was not looking for advice; medical or otherwise. I was hoping for some other experiences. Which I got plenty of over on the fishing/hunting forums...:cool

post #6 of 11

I think Kneale is on target when it comes to this kind of thing.

Masters Racer is not far off, though his comment seems abrupt, in that you may want to seek some medical attention if this is a new concern. 

 

Since I haven't experienced this, its hard for me to weigh in, but I hope you find a solution so you can continue to enjoy the mountains. 

post #7 of 11
It is quite common to experience the worst symptoms while trying to sleep at altitude. That said, err on the side of caution....
post #8 of 11

I am a lifelong sufferer of AMS. I can tell you that for me it definitely worsened with age. That you only just now noticed it doesn't seem surprising. Your symptoms certainly fall in line with those of AMS. The link that @marznc included is an excellent article with great info. The only thing I will disagree with is the author's lower limit of 5000'. Um...nope! Salt Lake City at less than 4500' was enough for me to have clear symptoms.

 

I lived at sea level until I was 27, the next 20 years were at about 1100 feet. It was my first ski trip to Summit county (sleeping at 9600') that made me learn about AMS. It was then that I realized what I had been experiencing since I was a kid. Turns out I was probably in danger then also. I've lived in Denver for more than five years now, and rarely suffer in Summit county anymore.

 

The two things I would suggest, as they both worked for me, are gradual increase in altitude when you're heading up, and Diamox. If your symptoms were bad enough to bother you on your fishing trip then I would say that is enough to have a conversation with your doc. If your symptoms were truly severe then I would say DEFINATELY talk with your doc, as that one is potentially dangerous.

 

Hope you can solve this, AMS is miserable at best.

post #9 of 11
Following up, find and print out a list of AMS symptoms, highlight the ones that you experience and take that to your physician in a quest to get a prescription for Diamox. If the physician refuses, find a better one. Diamox solved most of my issues for short visits. If you experience shortness of breath at you near-sealevel home, see a cardiologist.
post #10 of 11

What you experienced in the Sierra trip is what I have felt the last few times in Summit County, CO which is about 9000' and higher elevation.  It's particularly unpleasant waking up in the middle of the night gasping for breath.  I have used Diamox several times and found it helpful for adjusting to short term visits in high elevations.  Checking with an MD sounds like good advice. 

post #11 of 11

I know this is a bit of a thread revival, but I've felt the altitude at heights once as low as ~6000 feet (totally exhausted/weak), but then hiked an incredibly steep scree route for 2 hrs at 12,500 feet (starting two days before literally in the ocean on the beach), and ski-toured at around 14,000 feet and felt totally fine. I've slept at 8,500 and been a little dizzy w/ quick breathing/poor sleep quality. I've skied at 11,000 feet and felt like I was wobbly when stopping before a particular pow line. In other words: once I felt it at 6,000 feet while at rest, and once I barely felt anything while working out hard at ~14,000 feet.

 

The conclusions I draw from my own experiences match what the scientific literature reports: Response to altitude can vary widely from person to person, independent of fitness level; it can vary widely in the same person from experience to experience, independent of fitness level; it is a complex response that is impacted by so many variables, not limited to hydration, levels of rest, sub-noticeable infections/injury; almost everyone can acclimate (to varying degrees and at varying speeds) either over the short-term (climb high, sleep low) or over longer time periods (multiple trips not too spread out in time). 

 

That's not medical advise. And it might be a good idea for anyone who is 67 (or not) to at least bring the topic up with a real doctor, in person, when there's an experience of shortness of breath that feels unusual. 

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