High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, should not be a barrier to travel. If you have high blood pressure that is not controlled, your GP should advise you if it is a good idea to travel or not, especially if your trip involves flying, which can raise blood pressure levels. There are, however, things you can do while planning your travel to keep your heart healthy.
With the increased demands involved with traveling abroad, stress management is crucial. In addition to the emotional discomfort you may experience when faced with a long to-do list, your body may also react by releasing cortisol and adrenaline stress hormones into the blood. These hormones will then induce the flight or fight response and cause the heart to beat faster.
As a result, your blood vessels will constrict, leading more blood flow to the core of the body instead of the extremities, which will then result in situational blood pressure. Give yourself enough of a window to plan your trip, and be careful to get to the airport in good time to avoid anxiety and tension. Understand also that you cannot control every event. For instance, queues at the airport are beyond your control, as are crowds and security checks.
Take Your Medication
Most hypertension medication is required to be taken daily. When traveling, remember to bring enough medication with you to last for the period you will be away. It is advisable to take a written copy of the prescription in case the medication gets lost and you need to purchase more from a local chemist. When traveling to a different time zone, remember to adjust your medication timing – it might be a good idea to set an alarm that will remind you to take your dose. If possible, have the contact number of your doctor with you.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
On a long flight, try walking around as much as you can. It is advisable for all passengers to stay mobile, but this is especially important for people with hypertension. You could also exercise your feet gently by raising them to keep your circulation going – doing so will reduce the risk of developing clots. However, be wary of holiday exercises that could cause your blood pressure to spike, such as scuba diving. Most people with hypertension can safely use steam rooms, hot tubs, and saunas as long as they make sure to drink plenty of water. Note that too much heat can lower your blood pressure and cause you to feel dizzy.
Wear Compression Stockings
Post-surgical hypertension exposes individuals to the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If you have had an operation, you are at high risk, so consider wearing compression socks during your flight, especially if it is longer than four hours. Be careful to purchase grade 1 compression stockings to ensure they fit correctly – a wrong fitting can quickly elevate the risk of DVT. During your flight, practice calf raises every 30 minutes by raising your heels then toes ten times.
Watch What You Eat
When onboard, be careful about what you eat or drink. Most airlines offer highly salted foods and alcoholic beverages, which can all lead to a spike in your blood pressure. Snacks such as crisps and peanuts should be avoided because of their high salt content, which is linked to an increase in blood pressure levels. Instead, order low sodium options. It is advisable to carry your own food and snacks as you travel, to make sure you’re getting appropriately healthy meals. Ensure that alcohol is off-limits, as well as caffeine, to prevent the deterioration of your condition. Remember to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.
Ensure You Are Properly Insured
A lot of people suffering from hypertension forget that it’s considered an ongoing medical condition. When purchasing your travel insurance, mention you have pre-existing high blood pressure for adequate cover. Hypertension is not just a medical issue standing on its own but can introduce many other complications, including DVT and blood clots.
Unless you declare your condition, any problems arising from it will not be covered if you fall ill while abroad. Before getting your travel insurance, visit your doctor to discuss your plans, especially if you have an unstable condition. The travel insurance will need you to be determined fit to travel before validating your policy. Note also, not every insurance company covering hypertension caters to other complications related to the condition. Read the fine print carefully or ask for clarification.
When traveling or when making travel arrangements, take your blood pressure seriously, but do not allow it to get in the way of your fun. Take your medication, pack a blood pressure monitor, stay active, and consult your doctor to ensure that your trip is as safe as possible.
*Not professional medical advice. Please always see a Doctor before travel.
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