‘Sudden death’ on a trip to the gym…life-threatening ‘accidental mountain climbing’
- on May 29, 2023
South Korea’s major national parks, including Mount Seoraksan, Mount Odaesan and Mount Taebaek, began welcoming hikers in earnest on the 16th after ending their entry control period. With the end of the two-month “spring break” to prevent forest fires in the dry spring season, more and more people decided to go on long-delayed hikes. From the fourth day, the temple entrance fees collected from hikers were also removed, making it lighter on the feet.
While many people visit the mountains for relaxation, mountaineering is considered a physically demanding sport. Studies have shown that if you’re over the age of 34, your risk of suffering a fatal cardiovascular event more than quadruples. This risk is even greater if you’re a non-hiker who suddenly decides to take up the sport. Here’s how to stay healthy while lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.
45% of mountain deaths are sudden cardiac deaths
Most of the international studies that have assessed the risk of cardiovascular disease in mountaineering have focused on mountains above 2500 meters, the altitude at which altitude sickness begins to occur. The European Society of Cardiology has even issued guidelines for people with cardiovascular disease to be cautious when climbing mountains at these altitudes.
Hallasan, the highest mountain in South Korea, is 1947 meters high. This means that the risk of exposure to altitude sickness while hiking in Korea is not significant. However, not all hikes are safe. According to the National Park Service, there have been 67 fatal accidents in the last five years (2018-2022). Of these, 30 (45%) were sudden cardiac deaths. Falls accounted for 28 (42%) of the fatalities, which means that while it’s easy to assume that falls are the culprit, heart disease is actually the biggest risk factor.
Cardiovascular disease is especially important to watch out for in May and June, when temperatures fluctuate with altitude and time of day. An international study that analyzed cases of sudden cardiac death in hikers found that the longer it had been since they had eaten or hydrated, the higher the risk of sudden cardiac death. People who had previously had a myocardial infarction or were diagnosed with coronary artery disease were at greater risk of sudden cardiac death while hiking.
Diabetes and hypercholesterolemia were also risk factors. People who hiked regularly had a lower risk of sudden cardiac death than those먹튀검증 who hiked “once in a while. Based on these statistics, overseas medical experts advised people to build up their physical strength with regular exercise before climbing and to avoid climbing if they have serious cardiovascular diseases.
“The sudden increase in exercise and dehydration caused by mountain climbing activates the sympathetic nervous system,” said Park Chang-beom, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Kangdong Kyung Hee University Hospital. “These changes in the body can cause acute ischemic heart disease, such as angina and myocardial infarction.”
The burden of overexertion at high altitude
At higher altitudes, the oxygen level in the air decreases. Excessive physical activity in this environment can lead to dehydration. The sympathetic nervous system is activated, causing blood vessels to constrict and the pulse to speed up. Blood pressure naturally increases. The heart, which has to pump blood to the rest of the body, feels more pressure. This can lead to ischemic heart disease, a condition in which the blood supply is suddenly reduced or cut off. This risk is even higher for people who already have poor heart health.
Even healthy people without heart disease can suffer an acute myocardial infarction if they exercise too much while still being exposed to low temperatures. This is because hyperventilation causes the heart’s blood vessels to constrict. This is why cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of sudden death in the mountains.
In Korea, the most common age group for cardiovascular disease is between 50 and 70 years old. According to the Korea Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, men in their 60s were the most commonly diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases at medical centers in 2021 (240,900). There were also a relatively large number of men in their 50s (150,903). This is also the age group that goes hiking a lot.
If an acute cardiac event occurs while hiking, it takes time for a stretcher or helicopter to reach the accident site. This makes it easy to miss the golden time for treatment. If you suffer from high blood pressure, make sure you take your medication. It”s also important for mountaineers to know how to perform CPR. In the mountains, you”ll need to provide first aid after an accident and before paramedics arrive.
Aerobic exercise three times a week to build strength
People with hypertension, atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, and the elderly have less flexible blood vessels than healthy, younger people. Their blood vessel walls are thicker, making them more prone to high blood pressure. Exposure to large temperature differences can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure and worsen cardiovascular conditions. Be prepared for temperature changes during your hike. It”s a good idea to wear several thin layers of clothing and to change them frequently to adapt to the temperature changes. Avoid situations where your body temperature drops rapidly, such as getting caught in the rain.
Doing aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, running, jumping rope, or cycling, three to four days a week will help keep your heart healthy. Brisk walking should be at an intensity that leaves you slightly out of breath as you walk and talk to the person next to you. Each session should last between 30 and 45 minutes. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet will also help lower your blood pressure.
It”s also important to adjust the intensity of your hike according to your fitness level. In general, it”s recommended to hike at an intensity of 60 to 75% of your maximum heart rate. “Emergency cardiovascular diseases can cause irreversible consequences if delayed,” said Dr. Hye-moon Jung, professor of cardiology at Kyung Hee University Hospital. “If you experience sudden chest pain that lasts for more than 10 minutes, shortness of breath, night sweats, vomiting, or dizziness, you should call 119 and seek medical attention without delay.”