My husband is 67 years old and 5 months post bovine aortic heart valve replacement. He is fit and able to keep his blood pressure normal with medication. We live in New England and are planning to hike in Wyoming later this summer at altitude of about 10,000 feet. We will be carrying about 40 pounds of gear for the 7-day hike. In general, is there anything to be concerned about with this kind of physical activity and his current condition? We are planning some short hikes at first to get used to the different altitude.
Hi~ That's a high altitude for hiking 7 days, for even the most experienced hiker. Have you done this before? The air is thin at that altitude which can cause difficulty with
breathing. Short hikes will give you an idea of what you're in for. But,here's what I really think: Get an appt. with his cardiologist and talk it over. Only he/she would know what's best,given his history.
All the best~
But let me ask you this, also: could you and he do the same 7-day hike right now, carrying 40-lb. packs, at the lower altitude that you are used to hiking at? Easily? Because if that would stress you, then doing it at a higher altitude will stress you more.
"Later this summer" is still less than one year post-OHS for your husband, which is another consideration. It's not that there is anything magical about the one year marker, but many people don't feel they are fully recovered from any type of OHS for about a year afterward.
You didn't mention any type of coronary artery disease, so I assume your husband doesn't have that, but if he does it is a major consideration. Same with any other chronic health condition.
Final question, do either one of you have any previous experience hiking at high altitude? Because if you don't, his first summer after OHS might not be the best summer to try something like that for the first time. I hope your husband is not feeling the need to prove anything.
Everybody is different. I read a post on another forum from a guy who ran a half-marathon like, two months after his valve replacement surgery. But those kinds of stories are the exception. Some people never get back to their pre-surgical fitness level, and those people are the exception at the other end of the spectrum. Most people's experience of OHS recovery is somewhere in between.
If, after thinking all of this through and checking with his cardiologist, you two decide to do this, I would say to be sure and check out the length of time you will need to be in Wyoming early, in order to adequately acclimatize yourselves to the thinner air. A 7-day backpacking trip at 10,000 feet is no walk in the park.
I agree completely with the posters. As a young man I walked what was then known as the Skyline Trail between Mount Hood and Mount Shasta (Oregon and Northern California) which is about 5,000 feet, and I was used to the 3500 foot elevation of Central Oregon. I could certainly tell the difference and I was quite athletic. As a much older man with heart trouble I went to Estes Park in Colorado at about the 10,000 foot level and it was a struggle just to get my breath when I walked, even though I was used to hiking for exercise at close to sea level. Only your husband's doctor can tell him what to do, but most people train before attempting this kind of trip. Remember, even Lewis and Clark chose the lower elevations to cross over the Rockies.
10,000 feet is tough, definitely take some dry runs to see how it feels and how it will affect you before going. Everyone is different, some tolerate it well. I took a "vacation" once where I was above 9500 ft most of the time. It was a struggle. I couldn't even sleep, as I'd wake up every hour with a racing heart. This is common. This was when I was in my 20s and a highly trained athlete. I live near sea level. I'm 42 now, supposedly in great shape still but now I get some occasional arrhythmia. I wouldn't even attempt it but heck, I'm a big whimp. :-)
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