What are the physical/health (arthritis or sinus) problems with living at 9-10,000 ft. altitude?

Asked by Patty Randall, Placerville, CA Wed Sep 24, 2008

We currently live at 3,000 feet in CA, are in our early 60's and love to snow ski. I have some problems on 1 week ski trips, but they taper off in time & I do have arthritis, like everyone else. We are thinking of buying a townhome in Summit County, Colorado and just wonder what is it like to live in a tourist town and how does the altitude affect you? Thank you for your help.

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Andy Johnson, , South Dakota
Mon Oct 6, 2008

Did you realize that you posted your question in Summit County, Ohio? I am from Colorado, and I happened to be looking for information on this website.

I grew up in Denver at 6000 feet and I always enjoyed (and still do) going higher. With regard to the thin air, people generally adapt. You noticed that you are already adapting to high altitude after one week. Adaptation to high altitude has been studied a lot and as long as your cardiovascular system is in okay condition, you'll just develop more red blood cells and breathe a little more. And at 9000 feet, the air is so lovely to breathe!

I think the main problem with altitude is that the humidity is low. That thin air just can't hold as much water. You have to drink a lot of water and your skin will tend to dry up. If you don't manage to keep hydrated (my problem is at night) you can dry out your mucous membranes. So the challenge is in just staying wet enough. This can make respiratory infections harder to fight.

But there are pluses to dry air. My wife used to have sinus headaches when she lived in a humid area, and when she moved to Colorado her headaches went away.

Andy Johnson
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Geoffrey Ford, Agent, Wenatchee, WA
Wed Sep 24, 2008
Hi Patty,

That is a great question. I would discuss this with your M.D. I am a confirmed skiaholic but, currently live at 1,200 feet and I am only 40. However I have lived at higher altitudes. The biggest thing I noticed was when traveling from high to low that breathing was like going from skim milk to whole milk. Of course when making a significant elevation change from low to high drink plenty of fluids and aviod alcohol. There is plenty of literature regarding this topic. I did an internship at Big Sky in Montana about 20 years ago and there was a gentleman there that was in his mid 80's that had helped build the place and was still working full time and going strong.

As far a living in a tourist town maybe try it for a month and see. Tourist towns can be a bit different and are not for everyone. I happen to prefer them.

Best Regards

Geoff Ford
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