For many years long distance runners have trained at high altitude to improve their cardiac function. When they come down from the thin air in the mountains for the big race they thrive in the relatively oxygen rich environment. Now some people at the other end of the conditioning spectrum are going to try out a similar strategy. See Treating Heart Patients With Thin Air in the Wall Street Journal.
Researchers are having heart failure patients sit in low-oxygen tents for four hours at a time. The idea is to see whether this approach helps patients gain more endurance when they come out into the regular atmosphere.
It’s not surprising to see non-drug approaches such as this one being tried. The cardiovascular market used to be a big one for drug development but with the availability of generic beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and diuretics and an absence of great new ideas, pharmaceutical development has shifted to more promising therapeutic areas.
That means patients and doctors wanting to try something new are looking at medical devices and approaches like this one.
It will be interesting to see whether the low oxygen approach works out. A smoker in ill-health once told me he kept smoking in order to challenge and condition his lungs. Maybe that theory will be tested next.October 5, 2010