REVIEW PAPER
Oxidative stress and the high altitude environment
 
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Katedra i Zakład Higieny Uniwersytetu Medycznego we Wrocławiu. Kierownik: prof. nadzw. dr hab. K. Pawlas
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Jakub Krzeszowiak   

Katedra i Zakład Higieny Uniwersytet Medyczny we Wrocławiu 50-345 Wrocław, ul. Mikulicza-Radeckiego 7
 
Med Srod. 2013;16(1):90–97
 
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ABSTRACT
In the recent years there has been considerable interest in mountain sports, including mountaineering, owing to the general availability of climbing clothing and equipment as well trainings and professional literature. This raised a new question for the environmental and mountain medicine: Is mountaineering harmful to health? Potential hazards include the conditions existing in the alpine environment, i.e. lower atmospheric pressure leading to the development of hypobaric hypoxia, extreme physical effort, increased UV radiation, lack of access to fresh food, and mental stress. A reasonable measure of harmfulness of these factors is to determine the increase in the level of oxidative stress. Alpine environment can stimulate the antioxidant enzyme system but under specific circumstances it may exceed its capabilities with simultaneous consumption of low-molecular antioxidants resulting in increased generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). This situation is referred to as oxidative stress. Rapid and uncontrolled proliferation of reactive oxygen species leads to a number of adverse changes, resulting in the above-average damage to the lipid structures of cell membranes (peroxidation), proteins (denaturation), and nucleic acids. Such situation within the human body cannot take place without resultant systemic consequences. This explains the malaise of people returning from high altitude and a marked decrease in their physical fitness. In addition, a theory is put forward that the increase in the level of oxidative stress is one of the factors responsible for the onset of acute mountain sickness (AMS). However, such statement requires further investigation because the currently available literature is inconclusive. This article presents the causes and effects of development of oxidative stress in the high mountains.
 
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