Flying with High Blood Pressure
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. Blood pressure will naturally fluctuate, and this is normal, but someone will be diagnosed with high blood pressure if they have a sustained blood pressure reading of 140/90mmHg or higher.
High blood pressure normally doesn’t result in any noticeable symptoms, but a sharp rise in blood pressure can result in symptoms including a severe headache, disorientation or confusion and difficulty breathing.
If your blood pressure is unstable or very high it is important to speak to your doctor before you make any travel plans.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
There are many causes of high blood pressure. In many cases, there is no cause for concern, but it is important to always seek professional medical advice, as high blood pressure can point to a serious underlying cause, such as diabetes.
Causes can include: being overweight, eating too much salt, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, getting older, having a family history of high blood pressure, or not exercising enough.
Does Flying Affect Blood Pressure?
Yes. It is important to understand that some elements of air travel can potentially raise already high blood pressure. Even in the pressurised cabin of an aircraft, at high altitudes passengers who experience high blood pressure can be at risk of hypoxaemia, which is a low oxygen concentration in the blood. This won’t always affect those with high blood pressure, but if you have an underlying medical condition such as heart disease or heart failure, you could be more susceptible to hypoxaemia.
Is it Safe to Fly with High Blood Pressure?
Yes, in most instances, it will be safe for those with high blood pressure to travel. There isn't a standardised limit that can stop someone from flying, but high blood pressure should be controlled with medication for your safety.
Tips for Flying with High Blood Pressure
Travelling through the airport is stressful, with long queues and security to pass. Try to reduce the stress that can occur at the airport by arriving early.
For more top tips and advice, check out our blog: How to Perfect your Airport Experience
Stretch During the Flight
Those with high blood pressure can also be at a greater risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which are blood clots in your deep veins. While flying, simple stretches and exercises can be performed to help prevent DVT. More information on deep vein thrombosis when flying can be found here. NHS England recommends walking the aisle and doing calf raises at least every half-hour during the flight. Raise your heels 10 times, then your toes 10 times, and rotate your ankles.
Check out our guide to wellness and staying healthy on a plane for more top tip!
Wear Compression Socks
Compression stockings are tight-fitting socks or tights which can be worn during long flights. Compress socks help to provide extra pressure to your feet, legs and stomach, to improve the circulation of your blood and increase your blood pressure. It is important to purchase Grade 1 socks and ensure they are properly fitted, otherwise the effect can actually be negative.
Pack your Medication
Remember to pack your medication in your hand luggage so that it is easily accessible during the flight. Keep extra blood pressure medication in your carry-on in case your flight is delayed. Ask your doctor to prescribe enough medicine to last the entire length of your time away. Your doctor will also be able to explain whether there are any special precautions you should take, as well as whether you need any a additional medication or vaccinations.
For more advice, check out our guide to Flying with Medication
Pack your own snacks
It is a good idea to bring your own food. Airlines will often provide snacks with added salt, which is known to increase blood pressure levels.
In case of an emergency, ensure you carry written information on the medication you are currently taking, along with dosages and contact information.
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Flying with High Blood Pressure FAQs
Can I take a blood pressure monitor with me when flying??
Yes, you can carry a blood monitor with you in your checked-in luggage. It is unlikely you will need the monitor during your flight, but if your doctor thinks you should have one with you while on board the flight, you should contact the airline to check whether it will be okay to bring the monitor aboard the plane.
Can I still get travel insurance if I have high blood pressure?
Before travelling, it is important to purchase and read the small print of travel insurance. Some insurance policies do not cover medical expenses or complications related to high blood pressure.
Doctors perform a simple heart monitoring test that gives a blood pressure result, leading to you being diagnosed with high blood pressure. Therefore, you may need to purchase travel insurance that covers pre-existing medical conditions.