Women at altitude: Ventilatory acclimatization at 4,300 m

Stephen R. Muza, Paul B. Rock, Charles S. Fulco, Stacy Zamudio, Barry Braun, Allen Cymerman, Gail E. Butterfield, Lorna G. Moore

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Women living at low altitudes or acclimatized to high altitudes have greater effective ventilation in the luteal (L) compared with follicular (F) menstrual cycle phase and compared with men. We hypothesized that ventilatory acclimatization to high altitude would occur more quickly and to a greater degree in 1) women in their L compared with women in their F menstrual cycle phase, and 2) in women compared with men. Studies were conducted on 22 eumenorrheic, unacclimatized, sea-level (SL) residents. Indexes of ventilatory acclimatization [resting ventilatory parameters, hypoxic ventilatory response, hypercapnic ventilatory response (HCVR)] were measured in 14 women in the F phase and in 8 other women in the L phase of their menstrual cycle, both at SL and again during a 12-day residence at 4,300 m. At SL only, ventilatory studies were also completed in both menstrual cycle phases in 12 subjects (i.e., within-subject comparison). In these subjects, SL alveolar ventilation (expressed as end-tidal PCO2) was greater in the L vs. F phase. Yet the comparison between L- and F-phase groups found similar levels of resting end-tidal PCO2, hypoxic ventilatory response parameter A, HCVR slope, and HCVR parameter B, both at SL and 4,300 m. Moreover, these indexes of ventilatory acclimatization were not significantly different from those previously measured in men. Thus female lowlanders rapidly ascending to 4,300 m in either the L or F menstrual cycle phase have similar levels of alveolar ventilation and a time course for ventilatory acclimatization that is nearly identical to that reported in male lowlanders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1791-1799
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Control of breathing
  • Estrogen
  • Hypoxia
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Progesterone


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