The cardiovascular response to hypoxia is a dynamic process that evolves over the days, weeks, and years of prolonged exposure. In both acute and sustained hypoxia, coordinated changes in cardiac pump function and systemic vascular function work to facilitate adequate end-organ perfusion. During acute hypoxia, sudden reductions in oxygen supply are compensated for by increased oxygen delivery (cardiac output) which preserves or at least minimizes reductions in conductive oxygen transport. With prolonged exposure and sustained hypoxia, gradual adaptations restore cardiovascular function towards normoxic levels. Exercise in the hypoxic environment represents a unique physiologic stress that has important implication for healthy high-altitude travelers and patients with preexisting cardiovascular conditions.
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