Let’s Avoid Un-Timely Death – Dagnachew Teshome

May 3rd, 2009 Print Print Email Email

I am compelled to write this short observation/warning because I strongly believe that someone’s life may be spared because of it. Case in point – travel or moving into higher altitude areas by people with poorly controlled hypertension or coronary disease.

Although I am not a medical doctor or a health professional qualified to give any medical opinion, let alone recommendations, certain “observations” that I have made as a layperson have concerned me enough to sound the alarm and to let the professionals take it from there – correcting any factual errors or inaccuracies in my representation.

In the past five or six years, I know of at least 3 people (and I don’t know too many people) that have died of cardiac “conditions” a few days upon arriving in Addis Ababa after extended stays in the US. I don’t want to get into unnecessary details; however, all of these individuals had either high blood pressure, heart disease or both.

As you all know, the altitude of Addis Ababa ranges from 7000 to 8500 feet. Other cities such as Debre Berhan are well over 9000 feet above sea level. Contrasting these altitudes with that of the major US cities most of us Ethiopians live in, and travel to Ethiopia from, will help underscore the point:

Atlanta (1026),
Los Angeles (126),
Washington DC (16),
Dallas ( 430),
New York City (33).

When people transition from a low altitude to a higher altitude area, certain physiological changes take place in the body due to the lower oxygen tension at high altitude. At these altitudes, the oxygen level becomes so low causing people who normally live at lower altitudes to experience illness related to high-altitude. This is because their bodies are not used to functioning on such a low level of oxygen. Typically, the body adapts to the new environment over several weeks. This, unfortunately, may not be the case with people with uncontrolled hypertension and/or coronary disease.

People with uncontrolled hypertension and/or coronary disease should see their doctor prior to their travel and ask their doctor to make any medication adjustment that might be necessary given the drastic change of altitude. (After the move, it would also be useful to monitor one’s blood pressure frequently for the duration of the stay.)

Although this may not be considered urgent and alarming, I do hope that those of you who are healthcare experts will take the time to address this matter. I will also like to ask those with the means to reach the community (radio, social network, Pal-Talk, etc.) to please raise awareness by kindling dialogue in this regard before another family loses a loved one due to lack of awareness. It is often the simple and obvious facts that get neglected and result in catastrophic consequences.

Dagnachew Teshome

Los Angeles, California

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    Hallo Ato Dagne Teshome,

    Thank you for your observation and advice.

    Greetings from NL

  2. Girum
    | #2

    Ato Dagnachew, you can sleep well tonight because you did your share of duty. That’s excellent advice. Thank you.

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