Body composition and hematological changes following ascents of Mt. Aconcagua and Mt. Everest

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Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine







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Both Mt. Aconcagua (22,841.2 ft/6962 m) and Mt. Everest (29,035.4 ft/ 8850 m) are highly prized summits by mountaineers, yet there are no published studies comparing the physiological adaptations that occur from climbing both peaks. This case study compares the changes in body composition and hematology of a mountaineer who ascended both peaks. The male subject was 41 yr of age during the Aconcagua ascent and 43 yr of age during the Everest ascent, and had a history of ascents above 19,685 ft (6000 m). Baseline body composition measurements and blood draws were done within a few days of departure for both expeditions. Body composition was assessed by air displacement plethysmography and the blood draw consisted of a complete blood count (CBC). Post-expedition measurements were taken 10-14 d after reaching the summits. The ascent of Aconcagua resulted in a 2.0-kg drop in body mass and a reduction in body fat (15.5% to 12.1%), but blood chemistry remained within +/- 2% of baseline values. Body mass was reduced from 65.0 kg to 60.5 kg during the Everest expedition with a drop in body fat from 17.3% to 10.2%. Despite no change in RBCs there were increases in hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin of 12.7% and 13.7%, respectively. It took the subject 12 d to reach the summit of Aconcagua, whereas it took 50 d to reach the summit of Everest. The longer duration at higher altitude for the Everest expedition resulted in more dramatic physiological changes.

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