Did you know that some form of altitude sickness is experienced by about half of all people who primarily live in low elevations when they visit elevations above 10,000 feet?
Even though that sounds scary, a little bit of awareness will go a long way when you’re in Denver. Acknowledging that your body will physiologically act differently here, and knowing how to prepare will ensure that you stay safe and happy!
Here’s how to get used to the high altitude in Denver.
At high elevations, your body tends to breathe faster and harder, which causes more water to evaporate from you faster. This is why visitors need to drink more water in Denver than they would at home. Colorado also has a dry climate. In more humid climates, precipitation in the air delivers essential levels of water to your body naturally. But in drier climates, people need to consume extra water to stay hydrated.
Go Easy on the Booze
You get drunk faster here. There is less oxygen in the air in Denver than in lower cities. Since alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, even less is able to reach your brain when you’re at a higher elevation and also consuming alcohol. But as Gizmodo explains, “some people are just drunks at any elevation.”
Take it Easy on Exercise (at first)
The lack of oxygen at higher elevations makes exercise more demanding on the body. Fitness of any kind requires more oxygen from the body than when you are not exerting yourself. When your body doesn’t get the oxygen it wants from the outside, it will start creating more blood as a way to get more oxygen. This process increases your heart rate and blood flow. This can be problematic for anyone who is intensely working out, especially for multiple days in a row. People with heart conditions or health ailments should be extra cautious.
Take Sun Protection Seriously
Even if it’s cold, the sun is usually shining in Denver. We actually have more sunny days that cities like Miami and San Diego. Because of the elevation here, our atmosphere provides roughly 25% less protection from the sun rays than the atmosphere’s of lower cities do. Sun poisoning is a real thing, and it will totally destroy your outdoor time.
If you followed the basic advice above, you really don’t have anything to worry about. You will probably make yourself sicker from worrying about altitude sickness than actually being impacted by altitude sickness. It also doesn’t take long to acclimate. After a few months, your body adapts, and you don’t need to put as much of an emphasis on it.
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