High-altitude mountainous regions are becoming more and more accessible to a wide range of recreational visitors such as the elderly. The Nepalese Tourism Report has indicated a rise of 21 per cent compared to previous years, with 5.5 per cent being older tourists over the age of 61 years. It is well established, that unacclimatised visitors travelling to high altitudes above 2,500m are at risk of developing acute mountain sickness (AMS), which can further mature into the life-threatening high-altitude pulmonary edema or high-altitude cerebral edema. AMS has been called out as a public health issue with economic implications for the travel and occupational industry.
One of the most unequivocal ways climate change affects matters of public health, is through accompanying changes in mortality and morbidity linked to exposures to high ambient temperatures. One of the highest risk groups for heat-related illness and death are the elderly. As the global population is getting older, the consequence is an increase in the number of individuals susceptible to heat-related illnesses.
Environmental stress-related mortality as mentioned above can be prevented through measures such as alterations to the living environment (using air condition when hot) and or behavioural changes (staying in the shade on a hot sunny day). Another way to avert excess deaths can be through physiological adaptations (i.e. acclimatisation). While acclimatisation protocols have become standard procedures before competing in the heat or high-altitude, it could also be a useful tool for vulnerable populations such as the elderly preceding heat waves. Acquiring a state of cellular resistance would be beneficial to populations at higher risk of developing environmental-related illness (i.e. heat stroke or acute mountain sickness) such as the elderly.
Therefore, the aim of my research is to resolve what type of HA methods are appropriate for the elderly in order to acclimatise and demonstrate cellular resistance to environmental stressors such as heat and hypoxia.