If you're anything like the rest of this country, you could stand to do some reduction work on those love handles, especially if you're planning on a high-mountain vacation this winter. A new report suggests being overweight could make you more susceptible to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
In a recent study from the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas, Texas, Ge Ri-Li put nine obese and 10 nonobese men in a hypobaric (low-pressure) chamber and simulated a rapid rise from sea level to 12,000 feet. He kept the men up high and asked them to rate their symptoms—headaches, weakness, nausea, dizziness—at 6, 12, and 24 hours. After a full day, seven of the nine overweight men—and only four of ten in the control group—had AMS.
The researchers believe that the overweight subjects may suffer from impaired breathing during sleep, which further lowers oxygen intake and exacerbates telltale AMS signs. And while the men in the study didn't move around much, "heavy exercise can make the symptoms of AMS worse, says Todd Babb, another doctor involved in the study. If you're hefty and plan to hit 13,010-foot Loveland come January, Babb recommends taking acetazolamide, a proven prescription med that can prevent AMS. Or just start stocking your fridge with Lean Cuisine.