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High Altitude and How You Are Affected!

Today's breathable air contains less than 21% oxygen while previous years contained more than 50%. Big city living or being at high altitude decrease your oxygen intake even more. Your body thrives on three things; 1) oxygen, 2) water and 3) food. However, oxygen is the catalyst for the other two. Without the proper levels of oxygen, your cells become less efficient and slowly turn into sick cells. If you were able to consume more oxygen per breath and develop a better breathing technique, your cells will reproduce and grow making your body and mind stronger and healthier.

High altitude and you.

Approximately 40% of us that travel to resorts with elevations of 6,000 feet or get symptoms of altitude sickness or AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Within the first 3 days, you can experience headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, poor appetite and insomnia. Many who go on trips to the mountains experience some of these symptoms without knowing what causes them. Altitude sickness can look and feel like the "flu". In more severe cases, thinking and judgment may become impaired and about 1% of these people will develop more serious conditions and can become fatal.

Things you can do to help prevent altitude sickness.

Drink plenty of water before you leave for your trip to the mountains and continue to drink more water when you get to your destination. Do not drink alcoholic beverages the first few days once you get to your high altitude destination. Limit hot tub use the first few days once you get to your high altitude destination. Limit hot tub use the first few days once you get to your high altitude destination. Limit hot tub use the first few days once you get to your high altitude destination.

  1. Before leaving on your trip, drinks lots of water to stay hydrated.
  2. Increase your Nitric Oxide levels by drinking beet juice or super beets supplement which improves circulation. (see below)***
  3. Gradually increase in altitude. Many times this isn't possible because we fly to the mountains but if you can stay around 5,000 feet for a day first, this may help.
  4. Reduce strenuous activities for the first few days. Give your body a chance to adjust. This may be hard to do because we want to start skiing or snowboarding right away but relaxing the first day can help.
  5. Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, narcotics and hot tubs. These decrease ventilation, intensify hypoxemia, help dehydrate and make symptoms worse.
  6. Take a prescription medication. Diamox has been shown to speed up the acclimatization process but see your doctor for this.
  7. Get more oxygen by cracking the windows while you sleep. If that still does not help take supplemental oxygen! Supplemental oxygen is safe, cheap and can be found at most drug stores. Take oxygen before bed when symptoms are worse. Take on a regular basis during the day. Example: 3-5 breaths after after every meal. Also take during the day as symptoms dictate.

***According to Nutritionist Diana Sugiuchi’s book, Eat Smart Ski More, One reason that people experience Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) when going from sea level to high altitude is because our bodies have a hard time producing nitric oxide in environments where oxygen levels are lower.” As a result there is decreased blood flow causing fatigue. To get more nitric oxide in your diet drink beet juice 1-3 hours before hitting the slopes. Beet juice is a rich source of nitrates, such as Super Beets.

Once symptoms occur, they may improve over several days. However, if symptoms do not improve, they may be relieved with the administration of oxygen or descent to a lower altitude. When in doubt, see a physician.

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