Higher than Mont Blanc, this city is the closest to space with 50% less oxygen

Perched at 5,300 meters above sea level, La Rinconada in Peru is the highest city in the world.

How do residents adapt to the lack of oxygen and what are the consequences on their health? Let’s set off to discover this astonishing city.

La Rinconada, a unique place with extreme conditions

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for humans to live permanently at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters. La Rinconada is living proof of this. Located in the Peruvian mountains, this city has difficult climatic and health conditions:

  • Lack of oxygen: the air contains around 50% less oxygen than at sea level.
  • Extreme cold: temperatures can drop to -20°C overnight.
  • Lack of medical and health infrastructure: few doctors available and often not trained in the specificities of altitude sickness.

Residents facing lack of oxygen: adaptation and risks

Our bodies need oxygen to function properly. At altitude, we must therefore find solutions to compensate for this lack. The inhabitants of La Rinconada have developed certain physiological adaptations:

  • Increased number of red blood cells: this allows more oxygen to be carried in the blood.
  • Faster breathing: to compensate for the drop in oxygen partial pressure.
  • Increased heart rate: to help pump blood to muscles and vital organs.

But these adaptations are not without risks:

  • Chronic hypoxia: prolonged lack of oxygen can lead to neurological and cardiovascular disorders.
  • Chronic mountain sickness: fatigue, insomnia, nausea, headaches, pulmonary or cerebral edema can occur if you are not acclimatized to altitude.

Tips for living better at altitude

So how can you stay oxygenated at altitude and avoid these inconveniences? Here are a few tips :

  1. Acclimate yourself gradually: slowly increase altitude (less than 500 meters per day) and allow rest days to allow the body to adapt.
  2. Hydrate yourself properly: Drinking enough water is crucial to helping the body function despite lack of oxygen.
  3. Eat balanced: favor a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and proteins to compensate for increased energy needs.
  4. Practice regular physical activity: Moderate exercise promotes blood circulation and improves the ability to adapt to altitude.

Scientific research in La Rinconada

Since 2019, researchers from Grenoble Alpes University have been carrying out studies on the inhabitants of La Rinconada in order to better understand the mechanisms of adaptation to lack of oxygen and to identify the associated risk factors. This work could make it possible to develop therapeutic strategies to prevent and treat chronic mountain sickness.

So, even if La Rinconada is an exceptional place, living in this city with extreme conditions requires constant adaptation and increased vigilance. The tips mentioned above can help minimize the effects of lack of oxygen, but it is essential to take into account the risks associated with this unusual life.

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