How to Acclimate to High Altitudes

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It only takes a few hours to notice the differences at high elevation when coming from a lowland or coastal region. The air at high altitudes has less of everything: oxygen, pressure and humidity. It may surprise you how much your body misses these simple elements. It takes an average of 6 months for a person’s blood to adjust, and even longer for smokers. If your new location comes with a significant increase in elevation, there are a few things that will help you acclimate to high altitudes.

Things You'll Need

  • Drinking water
  • <br>Potassium-rich foods

How to acclimate to high altitudes

  • Drink water! Drink lots and lots of water. It’s recommended that you drink twice as much water as you do at lower altitudes. Drinking water is the single most helpful thing you can do to keep up with the demands of higher elevation. In turn, avoid the dehydration that results from consuming alcohol and caffeine.

  • Use nutrition. Potassium is especially helpful to physiological maintenance at greater heights. Eat a diet that includes bananas, potatoes, broccoli, greens and dried fruits, along with chocolate for dessert. Your appetite may increase for a few days. Be sure to eat enough. Being undernourished will certainly compromise your stamina.

  • Increase endurance gradually. At first you should only exercise about half as much as you did in an oxygen-rich enviroment, and do so at a slower pace. Walk, hike or jog a little each day on level ground. Try not to push yourself to the point of breathlessness. It’s better for conditioning to slow down and continue moving than it is to stop and take breaks. Gradually increase your distances and include some inclines as you regain your accustomed speed.

  • Rest! You will sleep well and longer when you first experience high altitude. Each time you exercise, be ready to follow it up with a nap. If scheduling allows, have a midday nap every day for the first couple of weeks. If not, get to sleep an hour early to avoid mountain fatigue.

  • Moisturize. The air at higher elevations may also be much drier than what you’re accustomed to. It may deplete moisture from your skin to a painful degree. Use soap with a moisturizer like aloe, and rub lotion all over your skin while it’s still a little wet from bathing. Lips and hands will need moisturizing balm applied several times a day.

Tips & Warnings

  • The instances of breathlessness will stop after about 6 months, and the extreme dryness is only a factor during the first year. You’ll not only acclimate to high altitudes, your body will come to prefer these conditions.

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