Thursday, November 10, 2011

Altitude sickness worst in Ladakh

Scientists have discovered the worst place in the world for altitude sickness is Ladakh, a region on the Indian border with China and Tibet.
Situated between the Himalaya and the Kunlun mountain range, this high-altitude desert attracts thousands of adventure travellers every year, but scientists have issued a warning that this region is the worst in the world for altitude sickness. The warning comes after the largest study on altitude sickness was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Researchers assessed more than 1,300 people who planned trips to mountainous regions which included at least three days hiking above 4,000m, and sleeping over-night above 3,500m.
Travellers were assessed for their vulnerability to altitude sickness prior to their trip – through a series of tests that mimicked the effects of high altitude on breathing and heart rate – and their results were compared with their actual experience when they returned.
Results of the study found that Ladakh presented the biggest threat, though scientists were not able to determine why, with no explainable links to the climate or difficulty of the terrain. This is the first study of its kind to suggest that there could be an association between geographical location and the likelihood of altitude sickness.
Common symptoms of altitude illness include headache, nausea, fatigue and dizziness, and in some cases swelling of tissue in the brain or lungs. Exercising at high-altitude can result in the respiratory system failing to keep pace with the demands of the body, triggering involuntary gasps for air and a feeling of suffocation. Physical fitness is not a defence for altitude sickness, rather a conscious effort to breathe faster and deeper is necessary as part of acclimatisation.
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