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Older Age as a Predictive Risk Factor for Acute Mountain Sickness

Published:October 26, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2021.10.003

      Abstract

      Background

      Older populations are increasing and comprise a substantial portion of high-altitude travelers. Aging physiology may influence susceptibility to acute mountain sickness, though prior research remains inconclusive. The goal of this study was to investigate the relationship between increasing age and acute mountain sickness.

      Methods

      This study was a pooled analysis of 5 prospective randomized controlled trials conducted at White Mountain, California from 2010, 2016-2019 with identical 4-hour rapid ascent from 1242 m to overnight sojourn at 3810 m. Acute mountain sickness was defined by the 2018 Lake Louise Questionnaire criteria.

      Results

      There were 491 participants analyzed, 234 (48%) diagnosed with acute mountain sickness and 71 (14%) with moderate acute mountain sickness. Mean age was 37 years (±13). There was no significant correlation between Lake Louise Questionnaire severity and age (r = −0.02; 95% confidence interval [CI], −0.11-0.07, P = .7), 40-year-old dichotomy (t = −0.6; 95% CI, −0.53-0.28, P = .6), or decade of life (P = .4). Logistic regression found no increased odds of acute mountain sickness for increasing age by decade of life (odds ratio [OR] 1.0; 95% CI, 0.97-1.0) or 40-year-old dichotomy (OR 1.4; 95% CI, 0.97-2.1). A history of acute mountain sickness increased odds of acute mountain sickness (OR 3.2; 95% CI, 1.5-7.7).

      Conclusions

      Older age was not associated with incidence nor severity of acute mountain sickness. A history of altitude illness increased odds of acute mountain sickness and should be used for pre-ascent risk stratification.

      Keywords

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