Statin use and the development of acute mountain sickness

Michael F. Harrison, Bruce David Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: Our prior publication suggested that elevated serum concentrations of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) was protective against the development of acute mountain sickness (AMS) while an inflammatory response was contributory to its development. The use of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme-A-reductase inhibitors ("statins") may be of interest to those traveling to altitude-these medications will lower serum LDL concentrations, but are also reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. METHODS: Prior to flying from sea level to the South Pole (~10,498.7 ft or 3200 m) during the austral summer months of 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, the 248 subjects provided informed consent. Questionnaires related to AMS symptoms, acetazolamide use, personal history, and anthropometrics were paired with results from blood samples. Statin use was reported by six subjects who were matched for age, sex, altitude of residence, and acetazolamide use with seven subjects not using a statin. RESULTS: No significant differences were identified in any of the matched variables between the groups. No statin users reported symptoms of AMS while 57% of participants not using a statin did report AMS symptoms (P = 0.03). No significant difference was noted between LDL levels in the statin group (108.3 ± 61.0) as compared to the group not taking statins (104.6 ± 22.1) (P = 0.88). DISCUSSION: Our previous results suggested that elevated LDL was protective while an inflammatory response was contributory with respect to AMS development. The present results suggest that statin use may provide protection against AMS symptoms, possibly through an anti-inflammatory property, despite its lipid-lowering capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalAerospace medicine and human performance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Altitude sickness
  • Cholesterol
  • LDL
  • South pole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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