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Prevent Altitude Sickness With These 4 Tips

itting the slopes this season? Don’t let altitude sickness keep you down! Going to new heights doesn’t mean that you need to suffer through your mountainside vacation.

But what exactly is altitude sickness (also known as AMS)? Experts define it as general unwellness due to reaching a high altitude fairly quickly. Symptoms can include headache, fatigue, nausea and, on occasion, a more rapid heartbeat or slight trouble breathing. Here’s how to bounce back when altitude sickness strikes:

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Many symptoms of AMS mimic an unfortunate hangover, so it’s no surprise that they share a common cure — water! Hydrating with good ol’ H2O while curtailing your intake of alcohol and salty foods will ease your body into a new climate faster. Need a little extra boost? Coca plant products — especially coca tea — are often used by ascending travelers to prevent AMS.

2. Rest up
While you might be tempted to hop on a bike or hit the slopes the second you get to your vacation destination, give your body a day or two to get used to the lower barometric pressure. Unfortunately, physical fitness does nothing to stave off altitude sickness, but exercising before your body has adjusted can exacerbate symptoms. After 24 hours, if you still feel fine, or after any symptoms of AMS subside, you’re safe to enjoy the great outdoors and dance it out on the bike!

3. Carbo-load
A major factor in altitude sickness symptoms is an imbalance of carbon dioxide (too much) and oxygen (not enough) in the body. But according to Bryan Thomas, a nutritionist and performance specialist at The Aspen Clinic, your body actually needs carbon dioxide to extract more oxygen from the red blood cells.

“Carbohydrates, as the name implies, are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms,” says Thomas. “When they break down, they produce more carbon dioxide than other macro-nutrients. Increasing your intake of complex carbohydrates during and prior to the time of acclimation can expedite the process substantially by increasing the utilization of the oxygen you do have available and improving the your sensitivity to a good CO2/O2 balance.” So be sure to load your plate with plenty of sweet potatoes and whole-grain breads to power your push ups and AMS prevention!

4. See a doc.
If your symptoms persist for more than 48 hours, check in with your physician. Most doctors in high-altitude areas such as Aspen are used to treating people with altitude sickness. Follow their advice and the tips above and you’ll be back to your usual self in no time.

The information presented is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, probable diagnosis or recommended treatments. Please take an individual approach and consult your physician on which dietary choice is best for you.

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