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Guidelines Developed for Exercise at Altitude in CVD Patients

Last Updated: September 14, 2021.

TUESDAY, Sept. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- In a scientific statement issued by the American Heart Association and published online Sept. 9 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, guidelines are presented for the appropriate management of individuals with cardiovascular disease traveling to mountainous locations.

Noting that oxygen availability declines at altitudes and hypoxic environments place unique stressors on the cardiovascular system, which may be exacerbated by exercise, William K. Cornwell III, M.D., from the University of Colorado in Aurora, and colleagues developed a comprehensive overview of physiologic responses to exercise in hypoxic locations and considerations for minimizing the risk for cardiovascular events in this environment.

The authors note that individuals at risk for or with cardiovascular disease may be at increased risk for adverse events when traveling to mountainous locations. Pretrip planning should include consideration of the location and duration of altitude exposure; assessment of planned exercise intensity; dietary considerations, including hydration, limiting alcohol exposure, and medication use; and identifying symptoms that should prompt emergency evacuation and making plans for that eventuality. The importance of acclimatization is emphasized, including adherence to gradual ascent profiles and tempering increases in exercise load. Disease-specific considerations vary and should be individualized for each patient. Hypoxia may cause ischemia among patients with coronary artery disease and may cause arrhythmias in patients with arrhythmia, and symptoms of heart failure may worsen with altitude.

"Together with a health care professional, a plan should be developed before travel, bearing in mind the location and duration of travel, along with the severity of the individual's medical conditions," Cornwell said in a statement.

One author disclosed financial ties to Medical Education Resources Inc.

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