Heart disease during air travel
Air travel places an increased strain on the body because of the low cabin pressure and the resulting low oxygen concentration in the blood.
The reason for this is that the heart is forced to compensate for the lack of oxygen by increasing its beating frequency. The pressure changes are also stressful, especially during takeoff and landing.
People without heart problems normally have no problem with the lower pressure. Passengers suffering from heart disease, however, are different. For this reason, such people should only travel by air if they are in good physical condition and the trip has been discussed in advance with their doctor. It is recommended (without wanting to paint a black picture) to be prepared for an emergency. This means that travel destinations with good emergency medical care should be preferred. Patients with a pacemaker should also not forget the corresponding pacemaker card (e.g. in case there are problems at the check-in).
Should heart problems occur during the flight despite good travel preparations, most airlines are well equipped to deal with them. Cabin crew are trained in first aid and passenger aircraft are generally well equipped for medical emergencies. For example, many airlines include a defibrillator as standard equipment on board. It is also recommended that you ensure the availability of any medical supplies that may be needed, such as medical oxygen (can be requested in advance with many airlines).
It is generally better to avoid air travel if you have any of the following (heart) diseases:
- Permanent breathing problems
- Unstable angina pectoris
- Severe heart defects
- Cardiac arrhythmias of an uncontrolled nature
Tip: The German Heart Foundation in Frankfurt a. M. offers people with heart problems a travel kit to order free of charge. The kit makes it possible to access important information quickly in an emergency. It includes travel tips and a checklist for travel preparations, an emergency ID card for people with heart problems, and a medical phrasebook that can be of valuable assistance in the event of a cardiac emergency abroad. You can order the travel kit via the website www.herzstiftung.de/sicher-reisen.