Aging at Altitude

Mountain living offers beautiful landscapes and opportunities for recreation and relaxation that are not commonly found at lower elevations. Mountain air is fresher because it harbors less air pollution and harmful gases. Although it may feel fantastic to breathe in the clean air, it actually contains less oxygen than air at lower levels. Transitioning to a high altitude can put a strain on people that are used to living at low altitudes. Although altitude sickness can impact anyone regardless of health or age, the effects often become more pronounced with age because of an increase in underlying conditions. Here are several challenges many seniors face when shifting to higher altitudes.


Hypoxia is the result of blood being unable to carry enough oxygen to the tissues and can lead to hypoxemia, a dangerously low amount of oxygen in the blood. Hypoxia can begin to set in at around 6,000 feet and can lead to an array of symptoms including headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, and increased heart rates. Symptoms can become more noticeable in people that already have a low oxygen uptake or VO2 max, which is how much oxygen the body is able to use during exercise. VO2 max naturally decreases as altitude increases.

Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure that affects arteries in the heart and lungs. It causes shortness of breath during normal activities, such as climbing stairs. People may also feel faint or dizzy when experiencing pulmonary hypertension, making it difficult or impossible to carry out daily activities. Reduced oxygen in the blood through high altitudes can exacerbate symptoms. Oxygen therapy is a common treatment for pulmonary hypertension and can be greatly beneficial at high altitudes.

Sympathetic Activation

Hypoxia can cause sympathetic excitation, an overreaction of the nervous system. As activity in the sympathetic nervous system increases, it causes escalations in heart rate and blood pressure. Common symptoms of sympathetic excitation include confusion, headaches, weakness, tingling, and double vision. Negative sensations increase with activity, making it difficult to lead an active lifestyle.

Fortunately, by adding a customized oxygenation system to your home, you can avoid all of the adverse health effects of living at a high altitude. By sleeping in an oxygenated room which is calibrated to mimic your ideal elevation, you can wake feeling vibrant and ready to enjoy your day.