Heart disease refers to several conditions that restrict the blood flow to the heart, damage blood vessels, or result in improper rhythm. Conditions include heart stroke, coronary artery disease (CAD), arrhythmia, peripheral artery disease (PAD), etc. According to the CDC, 805,000 people have a heart attack in the US every year, and 200,000 of those have a second attack. Also, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, causing approximately 1 out of 5 deaths.
That’s why those with heart conditions must take good care of themselves, especially while flying. Read on to learn more about air travel and heart disease in our latest blog.
Can You Fly with Heart Problems?
Generally, it is safe for heart patients to fly, as air travel mostly does not cause serious complications. Nevertheless, they should be aware of the factors that aggravate their condition or increase their risk of other heart problems and take precautionary measures accordingly.
Effects of Flight Travel on Heart Patients
Airplane cabins are not pressurized to the sea level, which decreases blood oxygen levels (more in elders) with increased altitude. The decreased blood oxygen level (hypoxemia) won’t be obvious until cabin pressure decreases significantly. So, those who already have a heart condition (especially if unstable) have an increased risk of health complications.
Besides, physical inactivity during flight travel, especially during long travels, decreases blood flow to the legs, thus increasing the risk of blood clots in the vein (venous thromboembolism).
Also Read: Travel Tips for DVT
Risk Factors Associated with Flying with Heart Disease
Factors that may increase your risk of heart complications while flying include:
- Confined space
- Decreased air pressure
- Prolonged immobility
- Low oxygen levels
- Physical and emotional stress
Pre-Flight Travel Preparations for Heart Patients to Minimize Health Risks
Before you plan your air travel, ensure to:
- Schedule a consultation with your doctor or travel medicine provider to check whether your existing heart condition poses any risk or if you need any pre-flight tests or medication changes/adjustments.
- Carry your prescription and a letter from your physician stating your condition, medications, and required medical supplies, such as oxygen.
- Stay current with your vaccinations, especially pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations.
- Know what your health insurance covers for pre-existing heart conditions and buy evacuation and supplemental insurance if required.
- Have an action plan with insights on handling emergencies, whom to contact, and how to travel to preferred hospitals.
- Have a medical kit packed with antibiotics, antivirals, painkillers, etc., for your assistance in case you have any infection-related symptoms or pain.
- Carry the details of a medical provider at the destination, so you can visit them in your time of need.
Tips on Safe Air Travel for Heart Patients
- If you travel with a pacemaker or other implanted device, carry the device ID card and a letter from your physician to pass the security check.
- If you need to carry oxygen or liquid medications, carry a consent letter from your physician stating the same.
- Pack all prescribed medications in more-than-required quantities to manage if your return is delayed.
- Request an aisle seat if you have urine incontinence or frequent urination issues, as it will help you easily get up and walk to the toilet.
- To prevent blood clots in your legs, wear compression stockings.
- Stay hydrated and avoid excess alcohol and caffeine.
Though heart problems while flying are uncommon, they do happen. This is why it is good to talk with your doctor beforehand if you have concerns. This will help you receive preventative care, reducing risks and ensuring peaceful air travel.
At North Atlanta Vascular Clinic, we provide stroke treatment in Suwanee, GA with personalized care and attention. Schedule an appointment today to improve your heart health.
Content Source: CDC