Physical Condition Among Middle Altitude Trekkers in an Aging Society

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The number of alpine accidents has markedly increased among elderly trekkers in an aging society, Japan. We evaluated the physical condition of 176 trekkers by interview and physical examination on a popular middle altitude mountain. Heart rate, noninvasive blood pressure and arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2) were measured using a portable life monitor. It was revealed that more than 70% of the trekkers were over 50. Seventy-five percent of trekkers over 70 had some pre-existing medical problems. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure before the start of trekking, increased with age. However, such age-dependent differences were not apparent at the summit hut. SpO2 values decreased slightly but significantly with age. In conclusion, many elderly people enjoy nonchallenging middle altitude trekking in an aging society. Alpine accidents caused by health problems tend to arise more frequently in this population. Alpine rescue teams should be well-prepared for the alpine accidents of elderly trekkers. (Am J Emerg Med 2002;20:291-294. Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.)

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