Background. To evaluate the safety and effects of high altitude on exercise level and heart rate in patients with coronary artery disease compared with healthy controls.Methods. Eight patients with a history of an acute myocardial infarction (ejection fraction >5%) with a low-risk score were compared with seven healthy subjects during the Dutch Heart Expedition at the Aconcagua in Argentina in March 2007. All subjects underwent a maximum exercise test with a cycle ergometer at sea level and base camp, after ten days of acclimatisation, at an altitude of 4200 m. Exercise capacity and maximum heart rate were compared between groups and within subjects.Results. There was a significant decrease in maximum heart rate at high altitude compared with sea level in both the patient and the control group (166 vs. 139 beats/min, p<0.001 and 181 vs. 150 beats/min, p<0.001). There was no significant difference in the decrease of the exercise level and maximum heart rate between patients and healthy controls (-31 vs. -30%, p=0.673).Conclusion. Both patients and healthy controls showed a similar decrease in exercise capacity and maximum heart rate at 4200 m compared with sea level, suggesting that patients with a history of coronary artery disease may tolerate stay and exercise at high altitude similarly to healthy controls. (Neth Heart J 2010;18:118-21.).
Keywords: Altitude; Coronary Artery Disease; Exercise Tolerance; Heart Rate.