The official blog of the Lung Institute.

Elevation and its Effect on Lung Disease

4 May 2016
| Under COPD, Lifestyle, Lung Disease, Oxygen Levels | Posted by | 10 Comments
Elevation and its Effect on Lung Disease

From the lowest basins to the highest peaks, elevation can affect your breathing.

Badwater Basin in Death Valley, California is the lowest point in the U.S. coming in at 282 feet below sea level. However, when it comes to low altitudes (below 4,000 feet), the negative and positive effects on health don’t begin until you start traveling up. For those with a lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s important to know the potentially negative and positive attributes of Elevation and its Effect on Lung Disease.

With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to give you the information you need to be healthy when living in low or high elevations.

Long-Term Benefits of High Altitude

Elevation and its Effect on Lung Disease

Contrary to popular belief, there is no less oxygen in the air at higher altitudes. Rather, the air pressure is substantially lower, meaning air particles are farther apart and oxygen in the air is less accessible. However, when the body can adapt to this change in air pressure, it has wondrous effects on individual health.

Once the body is able to adapt by acclimation, there are several changes to respiration. The lungs become larger, which enables them to take in more oxygen. The body also produces more red blood cells and capillaries, enabling the lungs to more efficiently oxygenate the blood.

Among the highest cities in the U.S. – particularly in Colorado – there is a significantly lower overall mortality rate for permanent residents. People living at an average elevation of 5,967 feet enjoy a lower chance of dying from ischemic heart disease, a higher rate of Vitamin D production, a longer life span and improved muscular performance. As the highest state in the nation, Colorado is the leanest state, the fittest state, has the fewest deaths from heart disease and a lower incidence of colon and lung cancer compared to others.

Negative Effects of High Altitude

Elevation and its Effect on Lung Disease

However, there are a range of negative effects resulting from high altitude, and these negative effects are generally considered the signs and symptoms of high-altitude sickness. Unfortunately, these effects are greater on those with lung disease such as COPD.

For altitudes above 4,900 feet, it’s been said that “even modestly lower oxygen levels in people with already impaired breathing and gas exchange may exacerbate hypoxia (a condition where your body is deprived of oxygen) and pulmonary hypertension [leading to death].”

Everyone breathes faster and deeper in high altitudes and due to the lower air pressure, this change in barometric pressure can cause a decrease in the amount of oxygen available, leading to hypobaric hypoxia. Although many people travel to places of high altitude for leisure and sport, patients with lung disease may be at an increased risk for complications in this environment.

What Elevation and Its Effect on Lung Disease Means for You

Elevation and its Effect on Lung Disease

Although there are some significant benefits to living in cities of high altitude, these conditions can be dangerous for those not properly acclimated to the conditions, particularly for those with chronic lung disease.

While there is no cure for lung diseases such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema, stem cell therapy can be used to address the progression of the disease itself while promoting healing within the lungs to improve one’s quality of life. With every passing year, the benefits of stem cell therapy are felt by a greater number of patients and as stem cell research continues to develop, the answer to addressing lung disease may be here.

Time can be a factor in any decision, so if you’re looking to take control of your health, don’t wait. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD or another lung disease, the Lung Institute may be able to help with a variety of stem cell treatment options. Contact us at (800) 729-3065 today to find out if you qualify for stem cell therapy.

Interested in Elevation and Its Effect on Lung Disease? Share your thoughts and comments below.


  1. Lung Institute

    1 month ago


    Thank you for your comment and question. We have written a few blogs on the effect of elevation and weather on people with COPD. Many who live in higher elevations (not just people with COPD) develop stronger lungs due to the lack of oxygen.

    Please contact your doctor regarding advice and questions about specific health concerns. At the Lung Institute, we provide an alternative treatment option for people with lung disease such as COPD or Pulmonary Fibrosis. If you are interested to learn more about our options, please contact one of our patient coordinators at (855) 313-1149 for more information. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. Paul Christian

    2 months ago

    I lived in colorado for 17 years at 7,500 feet elevation. I exercised an hour a day on my elliptical trainer, and frequently hiked, often with a 50 pound paraglider on my back. For the past 3 years i have lived in the pacific northwest, near sea level where, it is usually very humid. I get sick every winter, and have recently been diagnosed with bronchitis. The chest x-ray also showed showed “hyperexpansion” of my lungs. Before moving here my lab results usually showed higher red blood count, and I was told that was from living and exercising at high altitude, could that also have caused this “hyperexpansion”. I am an ex-smoker, but have been quit for 30 years, and had no previous reports of any problems on chest x-rays.

    Thanks so much for any information

  3. Lung Institute

    2 months ago


    Thank you for your question. There are a number of factors to consider when contemplating a move if you have or show symptoms of a lung disease. While higher altitudes have helped many people because the body adjusts to the thinner air, someone with COPD or another lung disease needs to be careful.

    Other considerations are air quality and access to healthcare.

    The American Lung Association has developed a comparison table to help with air quality and some other factors. Here is a link to that page.

    We have a dedicated medical team who have a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. So, feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. Robin Dague

    2 months ago

    63, lifetime smoker with mild breathing issues, contemplating moving to Fruita/ Loma, CO ELEVATION 4500-4700’ elevation. will this be a problem especially as i age? Currently living one hour south of los angeles, ca

  5. Lung Institute

    4 months ago


    Thank you for your comment. It sounds like quite a move for your Aunt, but also necessary. We have written a blog article about higher altitudes. Basically, for anyone living with a lung disease they need to stop smoking, and maintain a healthy diet. You may want to talk with her primary physician or specialist and see what they recommend. The higher altitude may present some difficulties. You may want to check out some of our other blogs about diet, exercise and other ways to improve quality of life.

    We have a dedicated medical team who have a wealth of knowledge about stem cells, treatment options, candidacy, cost and more. So, feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  6. Elizabeth

    4 months ago


  7. Lung Institute

    5 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and we are sorry to hear about your diagnosis. We wish you well. Most research shows that living in a higher altitude can exacerbate breathing difficulties. We wrote a blog article about it a while back. We would say that it is a personal choice. Not everyone is affected the same way. Albuquerque is a beautiful city and the surrounding landscape is amazing. We understand how difficult it could be to leave.

    We’re happy to answer your questions about stem cell treatment for chronic lung diseases, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with a patient coordinator. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  8. Penny Wolf

    5 months ago

    I am in the process of being diagnosed with a lung disease. So far asthma has been ruled out, and it is looking likely that I have either interstitial lung disease or something similar. We live at 5000 feet in Albuquerque, New mexico. We moved here 6 years ago. I am being encouraged by family to move to a lower altitude. I don’t want to move, but if it would either help my breathing issues or lengthen my life, obviously i’m willing to do so. I generally don’t travel to higher altitudes any more, but 5000 feet is my home. Any suggestions.

  9. Cameron Kennerly

    2 years ago

    Hello Thomas,

    First and foremost we’d like thank you for your question. The effects of elevation on the body after 5,000 feet include decreased performance and increased ventilation. These would be the initial symptoms of early onset High Altitude Sickness. However, as the body becomes acclimated to the increase in elevation (which usually takes a few days) the effects of High Altitude Sickness begin to wear off. In reference to your question regarding the efficacy of stem cell therapy, the Lung Institute currently holds an 82% success rate and has shown significant increases to patient’s quality of life. If you have any more questions regarding stem cell therapy and what it could mean for your quality of life, please reach out to us at (855) 313-1149 for more information.

    Thanks again Thomas and we look forward to hearing from you,

    -The Lung Institute

  10. Thomas Horden

    2 years ago

    Would an elevation of 5,348 ft. be easier on my lungs after the stem cell therapy? As I am planning a motorcycle trip to Rifle, Colorado soon. I have COPD and have lived in Michigan all my life except for my time in the Marine Corps.

Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

* All treatments performed at Lung Institute utilize autologous stem cells, meaning those derived from a patient's own body. No fetal or embryonic stem cells are utilized in Lung Institute's procedures. Lung Institute aims to improve patients' quality of life and help them breathe easier through the use of autologous stem cell therapy. To learn more about how stem cells work for lung disease, click here.

All claims made regarding the efficacy of Lung Institute's treatments as they pertain to pulmonary conditions are based solely on anecdotal support collected by Lung Institute. Individual conditions, treatment and outcomes may vary and are not necessarily indicative of future results. Testimonial participation is voluntary. Lung Institute does not pay for or script patient testimonials.

Under current FDA guidelines and regulations 1271.10 and 1271.15, the Lung Institute complies with all necessary requirements for operation. The Lung Institute is firmly in accordance with the conditions set by the FDA for exemption status and conducts itself in full accordance with current guidelines. Any individual who accesses Lung Institute's website for information is encouraged to speak with his or her primary physician for treatment suggestions and conclusive evidence. All information on this site should be used for educational and informational use only.

As required by Texas state law, the Lung Institute Dallas Clinic has received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from MaGil IRB, now Chesapeake IRB, which is fully accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Program (AAHRPP), for research protocols and stem cell procedures. The Lung Institute has implemented these IRB approved standards at all of its clinics nationwide. Approval indicates that we follow rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.