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Adaptation and Altitude Sickness ("Chronic Mountain Sickness")

Individual who remain at high altitude for too long can develop chronic mountain sickness. It is characterized by the following clinical sequence: 1. an extremely high hematocrit, 2. an elevated pulmonary arterial pressure and 3. an enlarged right side of the heart. As it progresses, congestive heart failure and death ensues unless the person is removed to a lower altitude. Describe how the body normally adapts to elevated altitude and the causes for the sequence of events associated with chronic mountain sickness.

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Normally, the body reacts to high altitudes (and lower oxygen levels) via increasing the amount of red blood cells in blood circulation. By doing so, each unit of blood being pushed towards the lung will have a higher capacity to carry oxygen than normal blood, meaning that the metabolic demands of the body are still met simply by increasing the number of oxygen-carriers being delivered to sources of demand.

With regards to the sequence of altitude sickness:

1) Extremely high hematocrit

Hematocrit is the measure of packed cell volume (PCV) to plasma (the actual fluid component of blood) ratio. The higher the hematocrit, the higher the PCV, which means the blood contains more cells than normal. As discussed above, this is from the ...

Solution Summary

Adaption and altitude sickness is examined.