Setting aside the benefits of cardiocavascular exercise in general, what are the risks to hikers/climbers with high blood pressure at various altitudes?

Is there an upper ceilling/threshold that HBP sufferers are recommended not to ascend above?

Given the prevalence of HBP in Western Society and the popularity of mountain hiking tour packages, this question seems a good fit for TGO SE with applicability beyond me.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 9:06
  • 1
    Hi Venture - after the edits, I think this is quite happily on topic here. For an individual, yes, speaking to your doctor is a good idea, but as a more general question this seems fine.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


According to this LiveStrong article;

In general

Living at or traveling to high altitudes can raise a person’s blood pressure, depending on the rate of ascent and the amount of time spent at the high altitude. The International Society of Mountain Medicine describes high altitude as 5,000 to 11,500 feet above sea level. At higher altitudes, the body works harder to process oxygen. This stress can cause high blood pressure. But the more time a person spends at the higher altitude, the better acclimatized the body becomes.

However, it also states that

"Prolonged exposure to high altitudes can have a positive effect on hypertension, or high blood pressure. In his book "Medicine for Mountaineering: And Other Wilderness Activities" Dr. James Wilkerson writes that extended exposure to high altitudes may inhibit the progression of hypertension in some hypertensive individuals. Dr. Wilkerson also notes that many non-hypertensive individuals experience the opposite effect, that is, an increase in blood pressure when exposed to high altitudes."

Also, the Institute for Altitude Medicine state that

"Some persons with HBP, however, develop lower blood pressure on ascent to high altitude."


In the November 2009 issue of the "Journal of Travel Medicine," Dr. Timothy O’Brien and colleagues reported on a study that found a group of black mountaineers experienced a drop in their systolic blood pressure numbers as they climbed to high altitude. Systolic pressure is the amount of force placed against the body’s arterial walls when the heart contracts. It is designated by the top number in a blood pressure reading. However, the systolic pressure of white mountain climbers increased as they ascended. The cause of the racial differences is unknown and may not apply to all individuals. The authors speculated that the observed differences seen in this small study may have been due to differences in genetics, hypoxic stress, diet and exercise.


Journeys to High Altitude—Risks and Recommendations for Travelers with Preexisting Medical Conditions (Kelly Mieske BSc Gerard Flaherty MB, MRCPI, MSc Timothy O'Brien MD, PhD) First published: 03 January 2010

There is a significant amount of individual variability in the effects of altitude on blood pressure. In the majority of people there is a small alpha adrenergic–mediated increase in blood pressure proportional to elevation gain,21 the effect of which is not clinically significant until above 3,000 m.2, 22, 23 However, in some people, there is a pathological reaction to high altitude which results in large blood pressure increases.5, 22 A work by Häsler and colleagues24 suggests racial differences in the blood pressure response to altitude

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    I didn't vote for this answer, as the question seems to be asking about occasional jaunts to high altitudes while this answer is primarily about sustantiend and/or regular visits to high altitudes. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 15:25
  • Interesting. Some speculation on the lower BP: when I go out hiking or climbing I am relaxed and feel much better, so I would not be surprised if my blood pressure lowered at altitude as well due to reduced stress and increased relaxation and happiness.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 22:51

High altitude walking is danger for everyone especially for people suffering from High Blood Pressure.

Acclimatization to high altitude changing blood viscosity and causing blood flow disorders. So people with cardiovascular disease has greater risk on high altitude.

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    Not a single source cited. Downvoted. It is not even a complete answer. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 10:17
  • It was not me. Here is the source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18204195 Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 10:28
  • That source does not seem very relevant to the question.
    – topshot
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 12:43
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    Cited sources should be mentioned in the answer. Also, you would be much better off quoting relevant sections from the article too.
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 22:45
  • HBP does not necessarily mean the person has cardiovascular disease. HBP may eventually cause CVD, but people can have moderately HBP and not have CVD, especially if the HBP has been caught early and is well controlled (i.e., lowered).
    – ab2
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 12:24

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