The official blog of the Lung Institute.
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
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
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
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, cellular 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 cellular therapy are felt by a greater number of patients and as cellular 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 cellular therapy options. Contact us at (800) 729-3065 today to find out if you qualify for cellular therapy.
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