You may be raking up air miles, but flying with high blood pressure could prove fatal.
There are more and more people traveling by air today than ever before – be it for work or pleasure. However, people flying with High Blood Pressure face some risks.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 195 million people flying domestically. Given that high blood pressure affects about 75 million people each year, the number of passengers flying with hypertension is significant. There are particular risks involved for those passengers, but also methods to help prevent and alleviate potential problems on board.
Hypertension symptoms worsen in very high altitudes. The Pulmonary Hypertension Association identifies this worsening condition as hypoxia, which is a significant decrease in the oxygen carried in the blood. In high altitudes, a person with high blood pressure experiences blood being rushed through his body without enough oxygen to supply all of the body’s parts.
Hypertensives might encounter difficulty breathing and blood clots in their legs on flights longer than two hours. They may also experience swelling and bloating from retaining fluid. This is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys, which in turn makes the kidney fail to eliminate waste and fluids from the body. The fluid leaks out and builds in the limbs, torso and face.
People flying can avoid hypoxia by standing and moving around the plane every two hours when permitted and staying away from salty snacks, since salt causes swelling and fluid retention and increases blood pressure. USA Today recommends taking an ice pack along to relieve the pain and swelling during the flight; to sit so that the blood can circulate and not to cross one’s legs. Also, people should flex their limbs periodically during the flight. According to the Mayo Clinic, avoiding alcohol and sedatives also alleviate pain and swelling.
Any traveler with hypertension should see their doctor during the trip-planning stage to discuss their options, which might include a change in medication and the need for therapeutic oxygen. High blood pressure patients traveling against doctor’s orders should avoid air travel. The altitude could even make their disease fatal or cause complications that are difficult to address in the air.
There is however, no contraindication to air travel for patients with treated hypertension, as long as it is under satisfactory control. People with hypertension need to consider all options to control their blood pressure. Besides frequent blood pressure checks, especially prior to traveling.
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