A New Safety Protocol at Indiahikes - A Treadmill Test (TMT) For Those...

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A New Safety Protocol at Indiahikes - A Treadmill Test (TMT) For Those Above 58

Category Thursday Trek Talk

By Swathi Chatrapathy

2022-07-14

We have introduced a new safety protocol at Indiahikes. Something that’s unheard of in the trekking world. 

Every trekker aged 58 and above must submit a Treadmill Stress Test (TMT) report before they register for a trek.

Why have we implemented such a bold safety protocol? 

There are multiple reasons: 

1. More and more people above the age of 58 are now trekking in our country. 

For us at Indiahikes, this is a heartening trend. With a vision that Everyone Must Trek, we have always dreamed of a day when trekkers of all ages and backgrounds would trek, especially those who are older. When older people trek it adds a new meaning to their life. So when we see an increase in the number of elderly people trekking, it’s incredibly heartening. 

(The year 2020 and 2021 saw a dip because of the pandemic. But we are already seeing the numbers increasing in 2022.)

“Yet, not all of them above 58 are aware of their physiological health. They could be marathon runners or ardent trekkers. But we have noticed that many of them are not aware of underlying cardiac issues. These issues could put them at grave risk at high altitudes,” says Lakshmi Selvakumaran, head of Experience at Indiahikes. 

We saw this first hand just two months ago, when a 62-year-old trekker joined us on the Gaumukh Tapovan trek. He returned from the trek halfway, feeling very tired. When he reached home, further clinical investigation revealed several blocks in his heart. Despite going through an angioplasty, the trekker suffered a heart attack within a few days and passed away. He was only 62.

This one incident left us in deep thought. 

Would he have lived if he hadn’t come on the trek?

Even though we are the safest trekking organisation in the country, are our existing safety protocols enough?

We ran through some of the basic precautionary safety measures we follow. 

  1. Before the trek, we ask for a Fitness Proof from trekkers, failing which trekkers are not allowed on the trek. 
  2. At the basecamp, we have a thorough Safety Check-In, where trekkers' oxygen and BP levels are monitored, their medical history thoroughly examined, ensuring they are healthy enough to go on a high altitude trek. For example, those with BP readings higher than 160/100 mmHg go into the Trek Leader’s watch-list.  
  3. During the trek, we have a 3-Time Health Checks protocol everyday. A part of the health check is to ensure oxygen levels of any trekker never dip below a healthy 90. Those who have BP issues have their BP also monitored everyday. 

    Yet, with the increasing number of older trekkers joining our treks enthusiastically, we had to bring in protocols that ensured greater safety to them. 

We needed a fool-proof measure to ensure that those who have underlying heart issues do not step into high altitudes. 
 

2. A Treadmill Stress Test (TMT) is the most certain way to assess a person’s heart condition. 

It took us several weeks of research and interviews with cardiologists to decide upon the Treadmill Stress Test. We considered other tests such as the Coronary Artery Calcium Score (CAC) as well. 

“We found the TMT had higher chances of ascertaining your heart condition, and it is more pocket-friendly than most other tests. This helps trekkers make informed decisions about trekking at high altitudes,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder and COO of Indiahikes.

“Further, in this day and age when we read so much about increasing cardiovascular diseases, if the TMT report calls for it, trekkers can take immediate action towards getting their issues rectified,” adds Sandhya. “It could potentially save their life.”

What we know is that most of our trekkers who are above 58 and fit have never considered getting a TMT done. Yet, this is where the danger lies. 

Trekkers are generally fit, follow an active lifestyle. Many of them are regular runners, and hit the gym regularly. Yet, they may be completely unaware of underlying cardiac issues. A TMT is a good wake up call.

3. We are already seeing proof of this protocol working. 

Last week, we implemented the new TMT protocol on a small scale among trekkers who have registered with us. Within a week, we got an email from a trekker aged above 58 with his TMT report. 

Without revealing his identity, I’m going to quote his email, because it helped us realise the power of a TMT before a trek: 

“I have tested positive in the Treadmill Test which was part of my comprehensive health check prior to the VoF trek. The report says that there were significant (undesirable) changes noticed during the test. I have since met with a cardiologist, who prescribed a CT CAG test, which has thrown up the presence of blocks in my arteries. The investigation and treatment are underway as we speak. However, I have been strictly advised not to strain myself and avoid going to any trek or visit places at high altitudes.”

As soon as we read this email, we were thankful that our insistence of a TMT probably saved his life. 

“Even if we have the best medically trained team members, world-class safety equipment and the strongest protocols in place, we wouldn’t be able to stop a heart attack at high altitudes,” says Arjun Majumdar, founder and CEO of Indiahikes. 

Some further details about the TMT Protocol: 

Every trekker aged 58 and above must submit a Treadmill Stress Test (TMT) report before they register for a trek.

  • This protocol applies irrespective of your fitness or prior trek experience (with or without Indiahikes) 
  • The protocol applies irrespective of whether the trek is easy or difficult.
  • This test report will have to be submitted before you make the payment for your trek. 
  • We will hold your slot for 7 days once you start the registration process, until you can submit the reports. 
  • This test will be valid for a period of one year. Which means that if you have done a TMT test within the past 365 days, then you can submit the same reports and they will be accepted. 
  • You can use the same report for any number of treks over the next one year. 

Concluding thoughts: 

“I know that it’s unheard of that a trekking organisation would expect someone to do a TMT test,” says Arjun. “Yet, for over a decade Indiahikes is known to bring in such radical reforms that have taken trekking forward.”

“When we introduced fitness checks in 2018, trekkers were shocked. They were wondering how an organisation would tell trekkers not to pay if they were not fit. It directly hampered the organisation. Yet, today, it has become a norm, making trekkers so much fitter than pre-2018 days. We see a direct reflection of it in the health of trekkers on our treks,” shares Suhas Saya, head of Exploration and Documentation at Indiahikes, who played a key role in implementing fitness protocols at Indiahikes. 

“I also remember people being amused when we introduced oxygen cylinders on our regular treks. Oxygen cylinders always belonged in the mountaineering world, and here we were, using them on 12,000 ft treks. Yet, within months of its introduction it started saving lives. We know how many hundreds of lives these same cylinders have saved,” shares Sandhya UC, co-founder and COO of Indiahikes. 

“It is hard-hitting realities such as what happened to the 62-year-old trekker that are catalysts of strong safety protocols. We did not have to take responsibility for an incident that occured 10-15 days after a trek. Yet, deep down, we know that the trekker may have lived on if he had not exerted his heart on a trek. It’s up to us as an organisation to learn from these instances, take responsibility and introduce protocols that save lives at crucial junctures,” concluded Arjun Majumdar, founder and CEO of Indiahikes.

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Swathi Chatrapathy

Chief Editor

About the author

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers. A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content. Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters's in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact on a person's mind, body and spirit.