How Two Weeks In the Mountains Can Change Your Blood For Months

For decades, mountain climbing has been plagued with the difficulties of altitude sickness. Climbers can face a variety of symptoms such as extreme fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. Left untreated, some people can even die.


There are extreme benefits, however; people who spend some time in high altitudes can build greater amounts of red blood cells. These red blood cells boost the body’s ability to process oxygen, therefore improving its cardio output. According to the article from Science, doctors have long since known that high altitude can affect the red blood cells. New studies, however, have shown that it doesn’t take as long for high elevation to affect the body as it once was thought. In fact, it can take as little as one night for high altitudes to start producing positive effects.


The article goes on to document a study where volunteers were sent up a mountain for a two week trek. Team members documented feeling better after one day and were able to complete their entire trek after being there for two weeks. Finally the team left the mountain for a couple of weeks before returning to do another hike. Surprisingly, the hikers’s bodies’ seemed to remember the high altitude because they adapted much faster than they did at first.


Scientists studied the hemoglobin of volunteers and found changes in how tightly the cells hung on to the oxygen. These changes had never been documented in human blood before. The scientists also found that the changes altitude has on blood is much more complex than originally thought; and since red blood cells can hang around for up to 120 days, a couple weeks in the mountains can change human blood cells for months.


Now these findings are being studied in relation to diseases such as cancer or heart disease. There are also possible uses for the studies like creating a medication to boost the blood’s oxygen carrying capabilities. This could help immensely in treating certain illnesses and travelling to new places like Mars.

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