Random health trivia

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daway8
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Random health trivia

Post by daway8 » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:41 pm

So on a late night impulse buy I grabbed some cheap pulse oximeter off Amazon and just out of random curiosity stuck the tiny light weight thing in my pocket this weekend.

I checked myself just for fun at a few points along the West Dyer - Dyer traverse this weekend and after the most intense section involving much higher than normal exertion somewhere around 13,500ft I measured my oxygen saturation at 75% and pulse at 145bpm (vs 82% and 88bpm later on Mt Evans B and 95% and 72bpm as I'm typing this at home).

Just curious if anyone else has fiddled with monitoring such things while hiking/climbing and if there's any way I can optimize my performance by occasionally checking/targeting anything in particular (in other words not looking for medical advice per se, just random curiosity).
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by nunns » Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:59 pm

I may be wrong, but I can't imagine those things could be very accurate. The wrist pulse monitors are notoriously unreliable.

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Re: Random health trivia

Post by dpage » Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:00 pm

nunns wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:59 pm
I may be wrong, but I can't imagine those things could be very accurate. The wrist pulse monitors are notoriously unreliable.

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He's asking about a pulse oximeter not a wrist HR monitor
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by daway8 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 3:19 pm

dpage wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 1:00 pm
nunns wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:59 pm
I may be wrong, but I can't imagine those things could be very accurate. The wrist pulse monitors are notoriously unreliable.

Sean Nunn
He's asking about a pulse oximeter not a wrist HR monitor
Yes, just one of those things you clip onto a fingertip and after a few seconds it gives you a reading. No clue how accurate it is but it did seem to somewhat track with altitude and exertion levels..
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by bergsteigen » Sun Sep 27, 2020 3:47 pm

I have one since I’m an asthmatic. This past weekend I’ve had a 3 day attack from some allergies. I tested on my last summit, and got 60%. Back at camp relaxing, I had a 85%. Usually at home I’m 98-99%

The % is always lower when I arrive on the summit and then rises as I sit there relaxing.

While it may not be as accurate as a device in a hospital, it will at least give you an idea of how you’re doing.
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by ctlee » Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:00 pm

Quick and dirty explanation for fellow nerds: How the pulse ox works is by emitting two different wavelengths of light-the hemoglobin that is saturated with oxygen in your blood absorbs more of one type of light and the hemoglobin that is not carrying oxygen absorbs more of the second type. The device calculates a ratio of the two and the percentage is the percentage of your hemoglobin that is carrying oxygen--your "oxygen saturation". Back at sea level, healthy people routinely hit 100%, here in Colorado, you would naturally expect lower saturations on high mountains, even if you've lived here a while (our bodies make more hemoglobin to grab more oxygen out of the air at the altitude we normally live at). The device can give false readings if your fingers are really cold and the vessels are constricted. That 75% is crazy :) Anything 90 or below we give people oxygen in the hospital. People at 75% are usually turning blue. I'm wondering if the reading was affected by how fast your pulse was-again considering it may not be the best quality device but they're not exactly the most super high tech little things so it probably was pretty accurate. Thanks for sharing this-I've often wondered about this myself!
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by daway8 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:23 pm

ctlee wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:00 pm
Quick and dirty explanation for fellow nerds: How the pulse ox works is by emitting two different wavelengths of light-the hemoglobin that is saturated with oxygen in your blood absorbs more of one type of light and the hemoglobin that is not carrying oxygen absorbs more of the second type. The device calculates a ratio of the two and the percentage is the percentage of your hemoglobin that is carrying oxygen--your "oxygen saturation". Back at sea level, healthy people routinely hit 100%, here in Colorado, you would naturally expect lower saturations on high mountains, even if you've lived here a while (our bodies make more hemoglobin to grab more oxygen out of the air at the altitude we normally live at). The device can give false readings if your fingers are really cold and the vessels are constricted. That 75% is crazy :) Anything 90 or below we give people oxygen in the hospital. People at 75% are usually turning blue. I'm wondering if the reading was affected by how fast your pulse was-again considering it may not be the best quality device but they're not exactly the most super high tech little things so it probably was pretty accurate. Thanks for sharing this-I've often wondered about this myself!
Fascinating - I was curious how they worked but hadn't bothered to Google it yet.

75% I imagine would be an issue for a person laying in bed at a hospital but I wonder if it might actually be accurate for heavy exertion at high 13k+ feet??? At the point it measured 75% I was sprawled out on the side of the mountain huffing and puffing after hefting myself up largely by my arms on a really sweet feature and when I collapsed at the top of it I thought 'hmm, I wonder what that thing will read now?' so I pulled it out and got the 75% with 145bpm. It would be interesting (in a useless trivia kind of way) to see how accurate/normal that kind of thing is for high altitude exertion...
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by Wildernessjane » Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:41 pm

Just dropped by to share an interesting observation my friends and I had at a high camp in Peru. My friend, who is a physician and has extensive training in mountain medicine, had brought a pulse-oximeter to monitor how we were all adapting to the altitude. We were kicking around camp on a rest day, which was at around 14K, and measured our response to pursed lip breathing. Wish I could recall the numbers but there was a noticeable improvement after doing it for five to ten minutes.
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by Flyingfish » Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:46 pm

daway8 wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:23 pm
ctlee wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 4:00 pm
Quick and dirty explanation for fellow nerds: How the pulse ox works is by emitting two different wavelengths of light-the hemoglobin that is saturated with oxygen in your blood absorbs more of one type of light and the hemoglobin that is not carrying oxygen absorbs more of the second type. The device calculates a ratio of the two and the percentage is the percentage of your hemoglobin that is carrying oxygen--your "oxygen saturation". Back at sea level, healthy people routinely hit 100%, here in Colorado, you would naturally expect lower saturations on high mountains, even if you've lived here a while (our bodies make more hemoglobin to grab more oxygen out of the air at the altitude we normally live at). The device can give false readings if your fingers are really cold and the vessels are constricted. That 75% is crazy :) Anything 90 or below we give people oxygen in the hospital. People at 75% are usually turning blue. I'm wondering if the reading was affected by how fast your pulse was-again considering it may not be the best quality device but they're not exactly the most super high tech little things so it probably was pretty accurate. Thanks for sharing this-I've often wondered about this myself!
Fascinating - I was curious how they worked but hadn't bothered to Google it yet.

75% I imagine would be an issue for a person laying in bed at a hospital but I wonder if it might actually be accurate for heavy exertion at high 13k+ feet??? At the point it measured 75% I was sprawled out on the side of the mountain huffing and puffing after hefting myself up largely by my arms on a really sweet feature and when I collapsed at the top of it I thought 'hmm, I wonder what that thing will read now?' so I pulled it out and got the 75% with 145bpm. It would be interesting (in a useless trivia kind of way) to see how accurate/normal that kind of thing is for high altitude exertion...
Im glad the time and money I spent on a Masters on High Altitude Exercise Physiology is finally coming in handy. As you increase in altitude you partial pressure of oxygen decreases. This in turn decreases the relative amount of oxygen saturation in your blood. You body creates EPO to produce more hemoglobin which binds to oxygen. This is due to the low oxygen saturation as measured by baroreceptors in your aorta.

While at rest in the low altitude of Denver 75% is crazy and dangerous. Anything below 85% you shouldn't begin exercising as brain damage can occur. At altitudes over 10k and especially while exercising it is not uncommon for the saturation to drop towards 70%. I would not be too worried as long as it increases while resting.

On a side note AMS and the hypoxic feeling that you experience while hiking is due to a lack of oxygenation of your brain tissues. The more you are exposed to low oxygen environments the more hemoglobin you will have in your blood and thus the higher your oxygen saturation will be when hiking. Which will help you go longer faster.

It takes 10-20 days to loose acclimation and up to 2 months to attain it as some people have large amounts of native EPO so it is very easy for them to produce hemoglobin. For example in a project during my degree it was discovered that my hemoglobin increases around 2x as fast as the average person in my cohort.
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by daway8 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:09 pm

Flyingfish wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:46 pm
Im glad the time and money I spent on a Masters on High Altitude Exercise Physiology is finally coming in handy. As you increase in altitude you partial pressure of oxygen decreases. This in turn decreases the relative amount of oxygen saturation in your blood. You body creates EPO to produce more hemoglobin which binds to oxygen. This is due to the low oxygen saturation as measured by baroreceptors in your aorta.

While at rest in the low altitude of Denver 75% is crazy and dangerous. Anything below 85% you shouldn't begin exercising as brain damage can occur. At altitudes over 10k and especially while exercising it is not uncommon for the saturation to drop towards 70%. I would not be too worried as long as it increases while resting.

On a side note AMS and the hypoxic feeling that you experience while hiking is due to a lack of oxygenation of your brain tissues. The more you are exposed to low oxygen environments the more hemoglobin you will have in your blood and thus the higher your oxygen saturation will be when hiking. Which will help you go longer faster.

It takes 10-20 days to loose acclimation and up to 2 months to attain it as some people have large amounts of native EPO so it is very easy for them to produce hemoglobin. For example in a project during my degree it was discovered that my hemoglobin increases around 2x as fast as the average person in my cohort.
Sweet!!! That's a lot more detail than I had hoped for! Lots of cool facts in there - thanks!
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by MtnHub » Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:48 pm

Wow! I worked as a Registered Respiratory Therapist 20 some years ago, and anything below 85-90% saturation was considered fairly serious and required O2 intervention.

I've always been curious too, how far sat's would drop at elevation, especially under heavy exertion. I find it hard to believe if your true, actual saturation was as low as 60% you would be able to even think clearly, so I'm curious if they are completely accurate or if there are any other factors to consider.

In the past several years I've always cautioned my partners that whenever I get above 13,000' or so my speech may get slurred and sluggish, so I know I do become hypoxic, but never really knew to what extent. I've always felt I could think clearly and use good judgement, but perhaps it affects you without your being aware of it.

Interesting thread.
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Re: Random health trivia

Post by Flyingfish » Sun Sep 27, 2020 9:18 pm

MtnHub wrote:
Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:48 pm
Wow! I worked as a Registered Respiratory Therapist 20 some years ago, and anything below 85-90% saturation was considered fairly serious and required O2 intervention.
This is still the norm in a clinical setting. Even for the average hiker it is not ideal for extended periods of time especially without acclimation. However, it is not as dire as for respiratory patients.
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