AF and altitude

I'm visiting Tenerife next month, and one of the trips I would like to do is to Mount Teide. However, this is at an altitude of over 2200 metres, and is "not recommended for those with heart or respiratory problems". Does anyone with AF have experience of being at the altitude? I wasn't sure if this really referred to heart 'plumbing' rather than 'electrical' problems. My heart rate is currently fine at around 60bpm, and has been since my last ablation just over a year ago. However, I had a bad episode a couple of weeks ago when it was up to 160bpm for a couple of days. My doctor doubled my bisprolol dose, and it came back down to 60bpm.

I really would like to do this trip, but don't want to put myself at risk, or invalidate my insurance (AF declared!).

16 Replies

  • I think it might depend on how you are going up it. Walking might be rather different to popping up in the cable car! I have walked that high in China and been fine though it was a long slow walk up many many steps!

  • All I can say is that 2200 metres is roughly 7000ft which I understand being an old geaser. I believe that this is less than the pressurised cabin height of most airliners so you will likely experience more "altitude" flying out there than visiting the mountain. To explain more, aircraft are pressurised to a level that is not dangerous to the occupants but NOT to sea level. Since the pressurisation comes from an engine this costs fuel and therefore money so is limited to what is comfortable for passengers. Of course if you plan to walk up the mountain that might be different.

  • Lizzo, I would have though the warning would be aimed at people with serious heart and lung conditions, who perhaps cant be put under stressful exercise conditions

    not recommended if your in Af, of course, but if in good health otherwise I think you should be ok, I done the great wall of China and was fine, Af wasnt a problem on the day and I have mild Asthma too

  • I'd take precautions anyway, such as carrying rate control tablets as PIP ... if you are hiking *and* your body is having difficulty extracting oxygen from the high altitude air, you might experience palpitations.

  • Depends upon how symptomatic you are. I spent some time in Colorado, Devnver area and had no problems with ordinary, everyday activities and coped with an AF episode but I wasn't hiking nor physically climbing just walking normally. Hydration I found was the biggest difficulty so keeping well hydrated meant drinking far more than you think. If you have SOB don't ignore the symptoms, stop and rest until you can breathe and carry on a normal conversation. The general rule is as long as you can talk normally whilst exercising it is ok. If you cannot because of SOB stop, rest, continue.

  • PS Denver - mile high city - is at 5,600 ft and I visited frequently staying a couple of days to a week or so.

  • One of my favourite summer hobbies is walking on glaciers, usually in Switzerland, and they are usually from 3000m to 4000m high and I've done this both pre- and post- ablation. What I would suggest is to get one of those £10 finger oxymeters from eBay and keep a check on your blood oxygen level. If it goes low then stop, sit down and take deep breaths to get it back up to >95%.

    The other issue is to check your travel insurance. Even if you declare AF, I have noticed some limit you to a certain height. One for instance says 2850m (which is also the minimum pressure a plane has to be pressurised to) so have been no good for me but seems ok for you.

  • Yes I understood 9000 feet as most aviation data is in real money not metric hence my comments earlier.

  • Hi. This topic concerns me too! I have been planning a trip to Denver and the Rockies and have been concerned about it affecting me having been a long term AF sufferer and 4 months post ablation. I would distinguish between general altitude sickness and dangers to people like us. The former can strike anyone and I have suffered in the past with general nausea and an upset stomach at altitude while my family were absolutely fine. im obviously more susceptible! However, I did go up Mount Teide in 2008 by the cable car, felt fine but about an hour later had a severe AF bout which landed me in Tenerfie hospital for the night. I never linked the attack with altitude until later and the Spanish doctors weren't convinced. They pointed to my increased alcohol consumption and "holiday" diet as the main culprits. So what would I do? We are all different. I am nervous about spoiling a good holiday these days and being ill in unfamiliar surroundings so I would probably wimp out. The alternative view is to take sensible precautions. I wasn't hydrated properly I'm sure, and these days my diet and alcohol consumption is more sensible. It's also important to enjoy life and not let these things take over. I'm sorry not to be conclusive. I was going to say my heart says go for it and my head says be careful but maybe not the best choice of words!

  • Thanks for all the interesting and informative comments. I should have pointed out that I have no intention of climbing Mount Teide!! Maybe a few years ago, but the cable car is exciting enough for me these days!!

    Plenty to mull over there. I think my first port of call will be my insurance company, as that is my main concern if things do go wrong.

  • I have copd and went up Mount Teide. It is driving all the way so no exertion. I would have thought you would be ok. I have AF and COPD using oxygen for mobility and would still drive up there myself. Enjoy if you go.

  • Thanks!!

  • I skydive every weekend from between 10,000 to 15,000ft with no problems at all flying in an unpressurised aircraft. Climbing a mountain though is different due to the extra demand put on your ticker. If you are in normal sinus it will not be an issue. Enjoy yourself and live your life.

  • I believe that my AF was initially triggered by a train trip up the Pyrrenees at 2,700 metres10 years ago but I had an underlying heart valve problem at the time (since fixed). I have never climbed a mountain but have gone up by cable car in the Alps since then and was fine. I am on rate control and I just took care not to exert myself.

  • I visited Maccu Pichu, 2430m, when in paroxysmal AF. No problems apart from a searing headache which was due (I'm told) to the altitude. I felt breathless initially but most others did, also.

  • I was fine in the Transylvannian mountains and also Nairobi. In the transylvannian mountains my guide made me drink alchohol (strong) for the sugar to counteract it. I have no idea if that did any good but it was nice. I really do have a big problem with AF but I just push it and push it, as I cannot accept that I can't do things (except walking up hill). I make sure I am well anti coagulated at all times and rest when I get back to hotels - keep still and breathe and also speak to heart specialist to see if you need extra drugs. I took extra flecanide on my riding holiday. We are all different but consult your consultant and as long as you are safe, go for it. You must be well anti coagulated and prepared ot rest.

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