Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE
Author: Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE, General Practitioner (GP)

Dr Sarah Jarvis is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

High blood pressure is among the commonest medical conditions in the UK – it’s estimated that more than 1 in 4 adults in England has it. It gets more common with age – for instance, if you’re 65-74, there’s almost a 3 in 5 chance you have it.

Fairly obviously, doctors don’t recommend to more than 1 in 4 people that they shouldn’t travel! In fact, if you have high blood pressure, it’s all about whether your blood pressure is controlled. If it is, it’s perfectly safe for you to travel and fly at high altitudes. But there are still a few tips to ensure you only return with happy memories.


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What is High Blood Pressure?

Your heart pumps blood around your system to all your organs, supplying them with vital oxygen. It’s pumped out through your arteries at high pressure, losing pressure on the way around. It comes back to your heart through your veins. This circulation system is like your personal plumbing, the arteries and veins are your pipes. Your blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside this system.

Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury, or mmHg. When you see your blood pressure reading, there will be two numbers, one over the other. The higher number is your ‘systolic’ blood pressure. That’s the pressure inside your system when your heart is contracting to pump blood around your body. The lower number is your ‘diastolic’ level – the pressure in your circulation when your heart is contracting between beats. Both these levels are important.

As a rule, blood pressure is considered high if it’s above 140/90mmHG. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will usually recommend that your blood pressure should be kept below this level. However, if you have certain other medical conditions (for instance, if you have chronic kidney disease or have had a heart attack or stroke), your doctor may want it controlled to a lower level, like 130/80mmHg.

Why does High Blood Pressure Matter?

Having high blood pressure means your heart has to work harder to pump blood round your system. It can also damage your blood vessels, causing them to become weaker or narrower. They don’t literally burst like a plumbing pipe, but they can get completely blocked.

 If an artery supplying blood to your heart is blocked, it causes a heart attack. If the artery is in your brain, the result is a stroke. In fact, high blood pressure plays a part in about half of all strokes.

On A Plane

How Do I Know if I have High Blood Pressure?

To cut your risk of heart attack and stroke, it’s essential that your blood pressure is controlled. High blood pressure virtually never causes any symptoms in the short term – you won’t know it’s high unless you have it checked.

So the first essential to controlling your blood pressure is to get it checked regularly. If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, this should be done regularly through your GP surgery.

However, many people today have a home blood pressure monitor to keep an eye on their blood pressure at home. They’re not expensive and are easy to use. You can find out how to measure your blood pressure, and how to calculate the readings, with this article on home blood pressure monitoring.

How Can I Reduce the Risk from High Blood Pressure while I’m Travelling?

If your blood pressure is controlled, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy a holiday away. But there are some important steps to take to reduce the chance of health disaster:

  • Take your medication regularly. Read our guide to taking medication abroad for everything you need to know.

  • Get regular exercise – in the long term it’s a really effective way of keep your blood pressure down as your heart gets stronger. However, check with your doctor if you blood pressure hasn’t been controlled. In the short term, very strenuous exercise can raise your blood pressure.

  • Reduce your salt intake. Salt is one of the biggest culprits in high blood pressure. In fact, according to Public Health England, reducing salt intake is one of the most effective ways for us to cut deaths from heart attack and stroke. For every one gram of salt we cut from our average daily intake, there would be an estimated 4,147 fewer premature deaths.

  • Keep your weight under control. Excess weight is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. Of course you want to have a good time on holiday – but you’ll need to lose any excess pounds you gain when you get home!

  • Excess alcohol can also cause your blood pressure to rise. It can be tempting to overindulge when you’re on holiday. However, binge drinking – more than about 6 units if you’re a woman or 8 units if you’re a man – can put your blood pressure up. And very high blood pressure, even in the short term, can raise your risk of stroke.

  • Always take out specialist travel insurance that covers all medical conditions you have, including high blood pressure. Otherwise, if you are taken ill, there’s a risk your medical treatment may not be covered.

READ MORE: Travelling With High Blood Pressure

Red Leaves In Water

Are any Countries a Risk if I have High Blood Pressure?

If you’re at high altitudes (5,000 to 11,500 feet above sea level), your system has to work harder to pump blood around your body. This means your blood pressure could rise. You may want to avoid very high-altitude holidays. If you are going to a high altitude, make time to acclimatize. In addition, avoid very strenuous activities.

If you’re taking water tablets (also called diuretics) to control your blood pressure, you need to be aware of your fluid intake. These medicines make you pass water more often, which can help keep your blood pressure under control. However, they can make you more prone to dehydration. Do be careful in very hot countries, especially, if they’re very humid as well.  

Can I get Travel Insurance if I have High Blood Pressure?

Certainly! If you have high blood pressure, you can easily disclose this information after providing some personal details about yourself and your trips. You can quickly and easily use our convenient online comparison tool to swiftly arrange your travel insurance today.

You can rely on us to assist you in finding a suitable policy within minutes, allowing you to return to planning the more exciting aspects of your trip in no time. Moreover, with a selection of top specialist high blood pressure insurance providers available, you can have the peace of mind to fully enjoy your holidays as you deserve once you reach your destination.

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