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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2001 Oct;91(4):1791-9.

Women at altitude: ventilatory acclimatization at 4,300 m.

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United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA 01760-5007, USA.


Women living at low altitudes or acclimatized to high altitudes have greater effective ventilation in the luteal (L) compared with follicular (F) menstrual cycle phase and compared with men. We hypothesized that ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude would occur more quickly and to a greater degree in 1) women in their L compared with women in their F menstrual cycle phase, and 2) in women compared with men. Studies were conducted on 22 eumenorrheic, unacclimatized, sea-level (SL) residents. Indexes of ventilatory acclimatization [resting ventilatory parameters, hypoxic ventilatory response, hypercapnic ventilatory response (HCVR)] were measured in 14 women in the F phase and in 8 other women in the L phase of their menstrual cycle, both at SL and again during a 12-day residence at 4,300 m. At SL only, ventilatory studies were also completed in both menstrual cycle phases in 12 subjects (i.e., within-subject comparison). In these subjects, SL alveolar ventilation (expressed as end-tidal PCO(2)) was greater in the L vs. F phase. Yet the comparison between L- and F-phase groups found similar levels of resting end-tidal PCO(2), hypoxic ventilatory response parameter A, HCVR slope, and HCVR parameter B, both at SL and 4,300 m. Moreover, these indexes of ventilatory acclimatization were not significantly different from those previously measured in men. Thus female lowlanders rapidly ascending to 4,300 m in either the L or F menstrual cycle phase have similar levels of alveolar ventilation and a time course for ventilatory acclimatization that is nearly identical to that reported in male lowlanders.

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