I was diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis in August 2012. I have been living in an area that is at 8,500 feet in elevation. I am experiencing shortness of breath and a persistent cough while I have been living here. I become winded during the execution of small everyday tasks such as moving boxes, raking, and at times, even getting into bed or entering my pick-up. I am asking for an educated opinion as to whether or not I would need to move from my location and get back down to sea level. Also what am I doing to my heart by remaining here at this altitude? I have read that the cough could also be a symptom. I was also diagnosed with Asthma and was given both Albuterol and Advair for inhalers. I was also diagnosed with mild Sleep Apnea. When I consulted with a sleep technician, I was told that the Apnea was not in play in regards to my symptoms as that only affects sleep. I do not feel as though it is the Asthma as I experience no wheezing.
Please help. Thanks so much.
The combination of pulmonary and valvular heart diseae puts you at more risk for developing symptoms such as shortness of breath and decreased exercise tolerance. Living at high altitudes does not affect the overall percent of oxygen in the air. Instead, there is less pressure which results is less air (mass per unit volume). This usually has more of an effect on pulmonary disorders such as COPD, or reactive airwary disease (asthma), etc. where air flow may be a problem. Having aortic stenosis generally would not be affected too greatly by higher altitudes as this is primarily a disorder of decreasing cardiac output. Depending on how severe your aortic stenosis is (mild, moderate, severe, critical), it may be worthwhile to ensure there has not been progression in the stenosis of your valve or any further changes to your underlying left ventricular function (especially if you are experiencing new or progressive symptoms). This can be done noninsvasively by an echocardiogram. Having lived there since 8/2012, your body should have appropriately acclimatized to the higher altitudes, so making sure your lung and heart issues have not gotten worse would be priority #1. Only then could a definitve recommendation be made regarding your living situation.
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