Heart Rate and High Altitudes

A woman hiking in the Swiss Alps

When you travel to a higher altitude environment, your body must make certain physiological adaptations in order to handle the significant decrease in oxygen.

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Your heart is one such organ that makes immediate changes, as it works to maintain delivery of the amount of oxygen needed by your tissues and organs. As such, you could experience and increase in breathing and a rapid heart rate as you enter higher altitudes.

High altitude is commonly defined as 8,000 feet in elevation. However, heart rate can be affected any time a person travels to an elevation higher than they are accustomed to. For reference, Denver, Colorado — also called the “mile-high city” — sits at 5,000 feet.

Rapid Heart Rate With Altitude

Oxygen is necessary for all cellular life in your body. Your heart’s sole function is to provide your organs and tissues with oxygenated blood and to return deoxygenated blood to your lungs so that it can become oxygenated again. How often it needs to beat is partly dependent upon the density of oxygen present in the surrounding air.

The atmosphere is 21 percent oxygen at any elevation. However, the air is thinner at higher altitudes, so you are unable to pull the same amount of oxygen in your lungs with each breath. As a result, with initial exposure to high altitude, breathing rate increases to bring more oxygen into your body and your heart rate immediately speeds up to help carry the oxygen throughout the body, according to an August 2014 article published by Diabetes Care.

Long-Term Acclimatization

When you are exposed to higher altitudes for a long period, your body acclimatizes and your resting heart rate decreases. It takes about two weeks to complete the acclimatization process. Because of this process, many athletes will arrive at a location a few days prior to their competition or event in order to perform at their regular abilities.

If moving after a long period at high altitude to a lower altitude, there is a typical slight decrease in heart rate as the heart has become more efficient, but the acclimatization period is not nearly as extensive.

High Altitude Sickness

High altitude sickness — often called mountain sickness — often occurs from not receiving enough oxygen. Symptoms can show up within 12 hours of arriving at the high altitude environment, but in some cases, develop over the first few days.

High-altitude sickness can cause headaches, nausea, sleep problems and swelling. In some situations, altitude sickness can be serious — fluid can accumulate in your brain or in your lungs, leading to a condition called high altitude pulmonary edema.

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High altitude pulmonary edema can be a life-threatening condition, according to the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, hallucinating, pink phlegm, rapid heartbeat and confusion. Seek immediate medical attention if you have these symptoms.

Do You Have to Be Physically Fit to Skydive?

By now, we’re pretty sure you know that skydiving is a real-live sport. Being that it’s a real-live sport, you may wonder how much physical fitness is required to skydive. We’re here to clear up some of those lingering question marks!

This isn’t necessarily a “fitness” thing, but let’s get this out of the way first: Skydive California enforces a weight requirement of 240lbs . We say it’s not fitness-related because there are plenty of fit people who tip the scales over 240. You’ll find weight limits everywhere in aviation because things that fly are only rated to safely convey a certain amount of mass around the sky. Even if you’re a Crossfittin’ juggernaut at 260, we won’t be able to safely take you for a jump; the parachutes just aren’t quite big enough. (Once you’re on the other side of your lifting competition and you’re leaning towards the yoga side of the fence, give us a call. We’ll be here!)

Exiting the Grand Caravan at Skydive Cal

Aside from that weight limit, if you’re curious to know if you’re in skydiving shape, you’re not alone. Every day, we regularly with first-time tandem skydivers who have never seen the inside of a gym. Usually, that ain’t no problem. However: There are some physical fitness shortfalls that actually can become a problem on a skydive. Let’s review the list.

1. Heart Trouble

If you have heart problems, skydiving probably won’t be a smart bet for you. As you undoubtedly know by now if your ticker is troubled, people with cardiovascular issues should stay well clear of any activity that can elevate the heart rate steeply and quickly. Skydiving most certainly does that.

Here’s how it looks, by the numbers: Just prior to and during the exit out of the airplane, you can expect your heart rate to ratchet up to somewhere around 140 beats per minute. Most people love that feeling, but for a weak heart, that’s no bueno. If you have a known heart condition, high blood pressure or breathing problems, there’s another concern: That you won’t be able to breathe properly in an unpressurized airplane up there at exit altitude.

2. Vertigo

If you suffer from vertigo, you can bet on the fact that skydiving is probably not going to be a fun afternoon out. Skydiving can definitely trigger a vertigo episode in folks with a history of vertiginous reactions to dynamic movement. Let’s put it this way: If a windy road can send you into vertigoland, you can be reasonably sure that the whirligig of a tandem skydive is going to spin you up like a top.

A photographer captures a tandem pair exiting the Grand Caravan

3. Bad back

Let’s start with this: A tandem skydive is likely to be gentler on your back than any number of other athletic activities. That said, the badness of your bad back is the defining factor.

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If your back is on the good side of bad, you’re probably not going to experience any surprises on a tandem skydive. If, however, you’ve had a spinal fusion with plates and/or screws, the situation is quite a bit different. Having hardware in your spine doesn’t always mean that you shouldn’t under any circumstances make a skydive . Keep in mind, however, that the consequences of a hard opening (however rarely those happen) or a bad landing (again: not a statistically likely thing) could be far, far worse than the consequences faced by a non-bionic human.

4. Any pre-existing condition that a doctor signs off on

If you have a condition that you’re worried about and you see your doctor to find out if it’s safe for you to skydive, congratulations! You’re a smart cookie. And we’re about to make you even smarter, free of charge, with this piece of key information: Most doctors don’t know the first thing about the actual risks and stresses of skydiving . The simple fact is this: If your doctor isn’t a sport skydiver her/himself, you’ve almost certainly done more research on skydiving with your condition that s/he has!

A tandem deploying their parachute at 5,500

Skydiving is a complicated thing. To be truly savvy, your physician needs to understand the dynamics of the non-pressurized airplane ride, the exposure to altitude, the effects of the adrenaline rush during exit and freefall, the forces exerted on the body during the opening of the parachute, the parachute ride, and landing.

If you feel that your situation needs further research before you feel confident jumping, here’s the best way to find someone who “gets it”: Either ask to be referred to a doctor who skydives as a hobby or call an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). AMEs are doctors who specialize in healthcare for pilots. To find one, try clicking here and looking up an AME in your area.

Here’s the final word: Skydiving is about calculating risk in an intelligent manner. That’s a responsibility, albeit a fun and satisfying one. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to help your learning journey in any way we can!

What’s Causing Your Elevated Heart Rate?

Young Asian woman body slim fit fitness sexy in sportwear setting up the fitness smart watch for running on road. Sportswoman, Health lifestyle Concept.

When you’re active, excited or under stress, a quickened pulse is normal. But if your heart is racing while you’re resting, it’s a good idea to look into the cause. In most cases, it’s something simple and easily treatable. Occasionally, though, the cause can be more worrisome.

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What’s an Elevated Heart Rate?

A resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute is considered normal for adults. But it can vary based on your age and fitness level. For example, well-conditioned athletes can have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute, according to the American Heart Association.

“Whenever you get a consistently higher heart rate, more than 100 in an otherwise healthy person, at rest, it’s something that may need to be evaluated,” says Rakesh Gopinathannair, MD, an electrophysiologist with the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute and a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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Causes of Elevated Heart Rate

The list of things that can cause your heart to speed up is long. Doctors typically consider these broad categories:

1. Non-Heart-Related Causes

  • Illness: Your heart rate increases when you have an infection or fever, states the Mayo Clinic.
  • Psychological causes: Anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia can all be culprits.
  • Blood chemistry: If you’re anemic or dehydrated, your heart has to work harder.
  • Hormones: A hyperactive thyroid gland is a common cause.
  • Medications: Albuterol inhalers for asthma, ADHD medications and over-the-counter decongestants can all be causes, according to the Cleveland Clinic and the U.S. National Library of Medicine. If you suddenly stop taking a type of medication called a beta blocker, (which slows your heart rate), this can cause your heart rate to bound upward.
  • Recreational drugs: Cocaine and methamphetamines can raise your heart rate, states the American Heart Association.

2. Heart-Related Causes

  • Arrhythmias: These are abnormal heart rhythms, often caused by problems with the heart’s electrical signals. Arrhythmias can cause heartbeats that are abnormally fast (tachycardia), abnormally slow (bradycardia) or irregular, according to the American Heart Association. The most common type of arrhythmia that causes a fast heart rate is atrial fibrillation.
  • Structural problems: A narrowed valve or another physical problem with your heart can cause it to have to work harder to circulate the oxygen-rich blood your body needs. : “If your heart doesn’t pump well, then you have less amount of blood that the heart pumps,” says Dr. Gopinathannair. “So, the body compensates by increasing the heart rate.”

When to Seek Care

An occasional fast pulse or pounding sensation that doesn’t last long, known as a palpitation, typically isn’t something to worry about.

But, says Dr. Gopinathannair, if your heart is going at a sustained 170 or 180 beats a minute and you’re having rapid palpitations, pounding and associated symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness, you may need an immediate evaluation in the ER. That’s because some types of arrhythmias can lead to life-threatening complications, including stroke, heart failure and cardiac arrest.

If your heart rate is more like 105 or 110 beats a minute and you feel otherwise normal except for occasional palpitations, Dr. Gopinathannair advises going to an urgent care center or seeing your primary care doctor.

Another reason to see a doctor is if you have episodes of fast heart rate that are persistent or frequent or that involve other sensations, says Dr. Gopinathannair. Examples are having a regular fast heart rate of 100 beats per minute or symptoms such as skipped beats or a flip-flopping sensation.

Source https://www.livestrong.com/article/264584-heart-rate-high-altitudes/

Source https://skydivecalifornia.com/blog/physical-skydiving-requirements/

Source https://www.livestrong.com/article/126904-causes-elevated-heart-rate/

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