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Variations In High Altitude Populations. The Purpose Of This Paper Is To Describe The High Altitude Stresses And The General Adaptations Made By The Tibetan Population In The Himalayas And The Quechua

2341 words - 10 pages

Paper pretty but I'd do some more research most of my paper is quotes -"Some ten to twenty-five million people (that is less than 1% of the earth's population) currently make it[high altitude zones] their home(Moran,143)." The adjustment high altitude populations must make are firstly physical and secondly cultural. Although most people adapt culturally to their surroundings, in a high altitude environment these cultural changes alone aren't enough. Many physical adaptations that reflect "the genetic plasticity common to all of mankind(Molinar,219)" have to be made to survive and even more than that thrive in this type of environment. In this paper I will describe the high altitude ...view middle of the document...

In the Himalayas only "5% of the geographical area(Baker,36)" can be used for agriculture. The main crops are barley, wheat and buckwheat. The crops are grown between 3,500 and 4,300 meters. These few crops are threatened by drought, hail, frost, snow and erosion. The Himalayas also have extensive pasture areas which are used by the nomadic and sedentary peoples. The higher regions have pastures where yak, sheep, and goats are the main animals used. In the high altitude there are many environmental stresses that the people must endure. They include hypoxia, intense ultraviolet radiation, cold, aridity, and a limited nutritional base. The people adapt to these stresses in many ways. Hypoxia, or low oxygen pressure, is the most prominent stress which populations living at high altitudes must deal with. "Hypoxia results whenever either physiological,pathological, or environmental conditions cannot deliver adequate supply of oxygen to the tissues. Since air is compressible, air at high altitudes is less concentrated and under less pressure. At 4500 meters the partial pressure of oxygen is decreased by as much as 40%, in comparison to pressure at sea level. This reduces the amount of oxygen finally available to the tissue(Moran,147-148)." The adaptations to hypoxia are all geared towards increasing the oxygen to the tissues. One adaptation to hypoxia is an increase of red blood cells in circulation. A person living in high altitude conditions is likely to have "30% more red blood cells(Molinar,218)" than a person living at sea level. "This greater number of red blood cells increases the hemoglobin concentration, which in turn increases the oxygen -carrying capacity per unit volume of blood(Molinar,219)." This then increases the oxygen sent to the tissues. Respiration and cardiac output are also increased. There is an increase in the capillary network to aid diffusion of oxygen to the tissues. There have also been cellular changes that increase the resistance to the tissues to low oxygen. Many other effects are felt from hypoxia. Growth and development are one of the many areas affected. Kruger and Arias-Stella compared two populations at 4,570 meters and at 200 meters and found the mean placental weight of the high population to be 561 grams as compared to the low-land population weight to be 500 grams. Placenta volumes did not differ showing that the placenta at the high altitude was denser. The denser placenta offers the fetus more protection and greater oxygen. The birth weights at high altitudes are uniformly lower than that of low altitude. This is probably due to hypoxia but the nutritional status of the mother's must also be taken into account. A study by Frisancho Velasquez and Sanchez demonstrated that subjects with short stature attained a greater maximal aerobic capacity than their counterparts of a larger body size when tested under identical conditions. It is known that " birth weight is said to...

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