What we'll discuss-
1) Understand the effects of altitude on your body.
2) Things you can do to greatly reduce the chances of getting AMS or any other altitude illness.
Step 1: Understanding Altitude
Altitude starts affecting humans as you go higher than 2100meters.
The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere remains the same. But the air gets less dense, that is the molecules are more spread out and in one breath you inhale less oxygen then you otherwise would.
The atmospheric pressure (Pressure caused by the weight of the atmosphere) helps our lung membrane easily pass the oxygen into our blood. Less dense air puts less pressure on the suface. At high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure is low. Gravity pulls the more dense air towards the sea level. Your body can perform its best at sea level. At 5000m the atmospheric pressure is half of what it is at sea level. At 8450m, its one third. Any height above 8000m is reffered to as the ''death zone".
Step 2: What Happens to Your Body
People born and living in the Andes and in the Himalayas have better oxygenation (oxygen molecules interfering with the tissues of our body) at birth, enlarged lung volumes throughout life, and a higher capacity for exercise.
So, don't compare your capacity with their's and don't stretch your limits.
At higher altudes, our body starts breathing more rapidly in order to compensate for the low oxygen avalaibility. Our heart pumps harder to release more oxygen into our cells. Our body starts producing more red blood cells to carry more oxygen. This in turn exerts our body and slows down other functions like digestion.
When our body is fully adapted to the new height, the production of extra red blood cells stops. This takes a very long time.
When your body doesn't get enough oxygen to carry out the essential tasks, it slows down and slowly dies. (If not taken immediate action)
Step 3: Preventive Measures
Some things you must do no matter what you think is right for you at that time.
ex: Even if you think you are perfectly healthy and drinking a cup of joe won't do any harm, don't take such a risk. Its a big NO!
Must Follow! Preventive Measures:
1) Climb High, Sleep Low,
Give your body enough time to acclimatize.
When you climb high during the day, and climb down back again to sleep, your body has more capacity to take in oxygen (it is prepared for the higher altitude).
2) Walk slowly, do not over exert yourself.
Unless you are competing! For which you should be extremely fit.
3) Drink plenty of H2O This should officially be your best friend.
4) Stay Warm It is cozy and worth it.
5) Eat (complex carbs, vegges and local food )Healthy and eat lots!
Your body needs lots of energy, otherwise it just stops working.
6) No Alcohol, No caffeine Trust me! Its not a very pleasant feeling at high altitudes. You are already high.
7)Carry Medicines (Diamox, Ibuprofen etc) Visit your doctor prior to your ascend.
8) Don't fill your brains with the fear of altitude sickness. That will unnecessarily cause headaches! If all of the preventive measures are taken, you'll be perfectly alright. Enjoy the beautiful nature and stay healthy.
Other Preventive Measures: (Not tested, but no harm doing) Vitamin C Tablets Practice breathing exercises or yoga Drink Ginger Tea
Step 4: Signs to Be Aware Of
Inform someone even if you see mild signs of altitude sickness like :
Headaches, Dizziness, Loss of appetite, Nausea/vomiting, Fatigue/loss of energy ,Insomnia ,Lack of body co-ordination
Types of Altitude Sickness
AMS- Acute Mountain Sickness
HAPE- fluid accumulation in the lungs(fluid accumulation in the lungs) very rare
HACE- high altitude cerebral edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) very rare
Step 5: Remember...
Trekking on high altitudes is challenging but every effort is worth it.
Its like exploring a completely new and beautiful world. Something you must experience at least once in your life. Take all the preventive measures and live to the fullest.
Explore. Dream. Discover.