Flying With High Blood Pressure: Is It Safe?

Eli Ben-Yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda

On July 18, 2019

You may be racking up air miles, but flying with high blood pressure could prove fatal.

More than 75 million Americans are being treated for high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. According to The Bureau of Transportation Statistics 195 million people are flying domestically. So it is no surprise that many people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure are flying. Yet there are certain risks when flying with high blood pressure. But knowing methods to assist you during the flight can mitigate many potential problems.

Hypertension symptoms can become aggravated at high altitudes. The Pulmonary Hypertension Association states that, “Worsening of conditions such as hypoxia or lack of oxygen in the bloodstream can occur at high altitudes.” So an individual with high blood pressure may experience less oxygen in their bloodstream.

Individuals may suffer symptoms such as shortness of breath, or blood clots in their lower extremities on flights longer than 2 hours. These individuals also might experience swelling and bloating from retaining fluid. In some cases retention of fluid can lead to kidney damage.

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.

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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.

What are we supposed to do? I for one love to travel outside the country and my flights are much longer than 2 hours. I don’t want to stay home when I want to fly to Rome.

Safety Tips When Flying.
  • Don’t Just Sit: As you are allowed by the flight attendants, every 2 hours get up and move about the aircraft and stand for a little while. Moving about will reduce the risk of clots.
  • Eat Smart: Stay away from salty snacks and food. Salt will increase fluid retention increasing your blood pressure and risks.
  • Ice It: If possible take along an ice-pack to relieve swelling in your extremities.
  • Avoid Alcohol & Sedatives: According to the Mayo Clinic avoiding these 2 items will decrease your pain and swelling.
  • See Your Doctor: Before flying check in with your physician, he or she may want to make some changes before you fly, or make recommendations for supplemental oxygen therapy before the flight.

As with anything in life be safe and smart. None of us wants to start our vacation in a foreign country by being greeted by an ambulance crew. Ensure you are well rested, adequately hydrated, and if necessary pack your own food for the flight.

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