Peripheral arterial vascular function at altitude: Sea-level natives versus Himalayan high-altitude natives

Annette Schneider, Richard E. Greene, Cornelius Keyl, Gabriele Bandinelli, Claudio Passino, Giammario Spadacini, Maurizio Bonfichi, Luca Arcaini, Luca Malcovati, Amerigo Boiardi, Paul Feil, Luciano Bernardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Regulation of the vascular system may limit physical performance and contribute to adaptation to high altitude. We evaluated vascular function in 10 Himalayan high-altitude natives and 10 recently acclimatized sea-level natives at an altitude of 5050 m. Methods: We registered electrocardiogram, blood flow velocity in the common femoral artery, and blood pressure in the radial artery using non-invasive methods under baseline conditions, and during maximal vasodilation after 2 min leg occlusion. Vascular mechanics were characterized by estimating pulse wave velocity and input impedance. Results: Pulse wave velocity and parameters of input impedance did not differ between groups under baseline conditions. In the post-ischemic period, the ratio between maximal hyperemic and baseline blood flow velocity was significantly higher in the high-altitude than in the sea-level natives (5.7 ± 2.5 versus 3.8 ± 1.2, P <0.05). The leg vascular resistance decreased in the post-occlusive period without differences between groups. Characteristic impedance decreased in the post-ischemic period by about one third of the baseline level without differences between groups. The post-ischemic decrease of input impedance modulus was more marked in the high-altitude than in the sea-level natives at low frequencies (28 ± 12 versus S.4 ± 20% at 2 Hz, P <0.01). Conclusions: Our results demonstrate a superior ability to increase blood flow velocity as a response to muscular ischemia in high-altitude natives compared to sea-level natives. This phenomenon may be associated with a more effective coupling between blood pressure and blood flow which is probably caused by differences in conduit vessel function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hypertension
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Arteries
  • Blood flow
  • Hypoxia
  • Vasodilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology


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