Is air travel dangerous for people with high blood pressure or heart disease?

( Q. Is air travel at all dangerous for people with high blood pressure or heart disease?

A. Dr. Irene Gavras, professor of medicine at Boston University, says that as long as your blood pressure or heart condition is under control, flying is not a problem. Last summer a review of current scientific evidence published in the journal Heart concluded that air travel is safe for most patients with cardiovascular disease, though there are a few conditions that warrant not flying.

Gavras says that people who have uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart failure are more vulnerable to a buildup of fluid in the lungs, called pulmonary edema. Airplane cabins are pressurized to make it possible to breathe normally even at very high altitudes, but planes aren’t pressurized to the equivalent of sea-level altitudes. “The pressure on the ground is higher than it is in the cabin when you’re up in the air,’’ Gavras says. Plane travel, particularly if there is any problem with cabin pressure in flight, could affect someone in poor cardiovascular health in the same way that traveling to high elevations can. If you have a serious heart condition or unchecked high blood pressure, it makes sense to consult your doctor before flying.


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