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Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2010 May-Jun;52(6):507-11. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2010.02.008.

The risk of cardiovascular events during leisure time activities at altitude.

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Department of Sport Science, Medical Section, University of Innsbruck, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria. <>


Annually, more than 100 million tourists are attracted by the mountainous areas around the world. On the one hand, leisure time activities at altitude may well contribute to the well-established beneficial effects of exercise; on the other hand, these activities are also associated with a relatively high risk of death. Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the most frequent cause of nontraumatic death in males older than 34 years at altitude during leisure time activities such as downhill skiing and hiking. Whereas prior myocardial infarction is the most important risk factor for SCD, particularly relevant in downhill skiers, the unusual physical activity during the first days at altitude and the prolonged abstinence from food and fluid intake during exercise at altitude are the most important triggers. Unaccustomed physical activity seems more likely to trigger SCD than altitude per se. The detection of subjects at risk, evidence-based therapy, and advice on adequate behavior during the altitude sojourn will help to prevent SCD and to increase the health benefits generated by mountaineering activities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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