How Low Oxygen Levels Affect the Body

b5-staying-on-courseLow oxygen levels affect a number of systems in the body. A lowered mix of oxygen in the blood causes the vessels of the lungs to narrow. This causes the heart to pump harder. It strains to get blood through the lungs. The heart rate and breathing rate are increased. Over time, this strain causes the heart to expand and weaken. It will eventually fail. Known as Cor Pulmonale, this rightsided heart failure is caused by lung disease.

Low oxygen levels can lead to an increase in the number of red blood cells in the body. It is the red blood cells that take oxygen through the body. This large number of red blood cells is the body’s way of trying to deliver more oxygen to the tissues and cells. In some individuals, the increasing number

b5-fish-furtherLow oxygen levels also can have a harmful affect on brain function and physical ability. Attention span and concentration may be reduced. Memory and mood can be affected. Abstract reasoning and problemsolving skills can be impaired. Speech may become affected. Simple sensory and motor skills may become difficult. Complex tasks that require gross and fine motor skills become harder. This may include tasks such as driving a car and operating equipment. Poor endurance for exercise, muscle weakness and impaired coordination also can be seen. Severe hypoxemia is lifethreatening. It can ultimately lead to confusion, coma and death.

Last update: December 4, 2009