Heart problems at high altitude tackled

28 June 2013

People who climb to high altitude will develop pulmonary hypertension, which is a temporary constriction of blood vessels that results in increasing strain on the heart.

Although it is a normal adaptive mechanism, it can sometimes can have serious consequences, resulting in life-threatening disorders and changes to the pulmonary circulation.

In an article that appears in the High Altitude Medicine & Biology journal, Erik Swenson, of the University of Washington in Seattle, provides a broad overview of pulmonary hypertension and describes what advantages and disadvantages its development may offer in normal human physiology and disease and at high altitude.

"An increased pulmonary artery pressure always occurs when the oxygen level in the lungs is reduced as occurs at high altitude," says Dr John B West, editor-in-chief of High Altitude Medicine & Biology and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

"Although the effects may not be easily discernible, pulmonary hypertension can be a factor in high altitude pulmonary edema and other diseases of high altitude."

Posted by Jeanette Royston

"Hypoxic Pulmonary Vasoconstriction", Erik Swenson, University of Washington, Seattle, High Altitude Medicine & Biology, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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