Life and Oxygen Content at Extreme Altitudes:
The adaptation of man to the summit of Mt Everest

Zubieta-Castillo, G. , Zubieta-Calleja, G.R., Zubieta-Calleja, L. 
High Altitude Pathology Institute (IPPA), La Paz, Bolivia. 

The abstract as published in Astroeco is the following:

Short permanence of humans in the highest places of the planet Earth,in acute conditions, without any kind of adaptation and with eminent risk of death, demonstrates that even at such altitudes, enough mechanisms of tissue oxygenation are still present. Furthermore, it is possible to perform maximal work at extreme altitudes.Like for example playing football at 6542 meters, on the summit of Mount Sajama,even after the difficulties of the ascent, preparation of the field, expectation of good weather conditions and all this in less than 24 hours, as accomplished by the Bolivian Aymara natives on August 2nd 2001.

Additionally, we have described a syndrome which we called “The Triple Hypoxia Syndrome” (THS) in which patients with chronic mountain sickness with gradual adaptation to hypoxia, can occasionally tolerate for a week or longer, severe hypoxic conditions similar to those on the summit of Mount Everest. Following is the data of a woman with CMS that presented THS on Day 1 and was recovered by the 7th day:
Day 1
Day 7
Normal values for
La Paz 3510 m
PaO2 in mmHg
PaCO2 in mmHg
Saturation in %
Hematocrit in %

In the THS,a high hematocrit of 75 % witha PaO2 of 35 mmHg, for example, are conditions that show that life is possible at any existing altitude on planet Earth.This provided that the following conditions are met: adequate temperatures, lodging, food, slow and progressive adaptation in only one generation. 

In any case, the increase in oxygen content through the increase in the number of red blood cells (high hematocrit) is one of the most important mechanisms of adaptation to high altitude.

Below is the pdf full article as referenced in Medline: Zubieta-Castillo G, Zubieta-Calleja GR, Zubieta-Calleja L, Zubieta-Calleja, N. Adaptation to life at the altitude of the summit of Everest. Fiziol Zh. 2003;49(3):110-7. (it requires Acrobat reader)

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