Here’s an interesting research topic: A team of climbers and scientists climbed Mount Everest, and on the way up (and back down) they took Arterial Blood Gas readings from each other. As you may know, Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is 29,029 feet above sea level. That’s about five and a half miles up!
As they climbed and the air became thinner, the Partial Pressure of Oxygen readings in the sample dropped. However, the amount of Hemoglobin in the blood increased – our bodies can compensate to take care of itself! The readings showed that the extra hemoglobin was able to keep the body thinking that it was functioning at lower altitudes until the climbers reached 23,300 feet. After than, the air was too thin for the extra Hemoglobin to help.
When the group from Denver came to Philadelphia for the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) convention last year, they found out that this theory was true. Living in a city more than one mile above sea level had caused them to develop extra Hemoglobin molecules in their blood – not much, and certainly not outside of the acceptable ranges – but it was there. And when a couple of them decided to work out, they nearly ran the wheels off of the Fitness Center’s treadmills! The thicker air and that extra hemoglobin combined to give them an energy boost.
When I go to Boulder – which is a little higher than Denver – I fear that it is going to work in reverse for me. My blood oxygen is already at 80%, at rest, moving up in altitude will cause it to drop. That is one of the main reasons I’m not participating in the Bolder Boulder: I’m not used to the altitude, and I won’t have a chance to become acclimated enough to participate.
So I’m working hard now, walking every day and doing stair climbing exercises, and I’m going to take it easy in Colorado – use my PulseOx a little more often than usual, chill out, and don’t get a burr under my saddle and decide I’m gonna whip that six mile course anyway. I have supplemental oxygen in the hotel room, just in case.
And my friends are all Funky Hearts too, so if I start falling apart at the seams, they’ll recognize the signs and come to my rescue!