It’s not uncommon to hear people talk about the positive effects a holiday can have on blood pressure. There is truth to it too – a recent American study found that taking a break away lowers stress and blood pressure levels in the average person.
But, if you are one of the approximately 16 million people in the UK who have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, there will be more to consider than simply getting away from it all. While a relaxing holiday can have great health benefits, it’s vital to be aware that some elements of travelling can potentially raise already high blood pressure levels. It is a good idea to have some strategies up your sleeve to alleviate them when they occur, to ensure that you can make the most of your holiday and your health.
What is high blood pressure?
You will be diagnosed with high blood pressure if you have a sustained blood pressure reading of 140/90mmHg or higher. This means that your heart consistently pumps blood around your body at a pressure of at least 140mmHg, while your blood vessels are able to resist the blood flow at a pressure of 90mmHg or more.
We may all have moments when our blood pressure goes up beyond this measurement, but it’s when your average reading is high that hypertension is diagnosed.
High blood pressure normally doesn’t result in any noticeable symptoms, so many people may be completely unaware that they have it. Having said that, a sharp rise in blood pressure can in some cases cause symptoms such as a severe headache, confusion and difficulty breathing.
What causes high blood pressure?
Sometimes, high blood pressure can occur as a result of having another condition, such as lupus or diabetes. In most cases though, it’s not clear exactly what causes high blood pressure, but there are several things that can make developing it more likely.
- Getting older
- A family history of high blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- Being of African or Caribbean descent
- Not exercising enough
- Eating too much salt
- Drinking too much alcohol
What is considered high blood pressure for travel insurance?
High blood pressure is diagnosed through a blood pressure test, during which your doctor will use an inflatable cuff around your arm to measure the pressure of your blood as the cuff slowly deflates.
If this gives a result that leads you to be diagnosed with high blood pressure by your doctor, you must tell your travel insurance provider, even if your condition is under control.
Tips for travelling with high blood pressure
If your doctor has diagnosed you with high blood pressure, you will probably be controlling it with lifestyle changes and/or medication. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of your condition and that a break from your usual routine can affect it. Thinking about your high blood pressure ahead of your holiday and allowing for it can help to ensure a happy and healthy time away.
- Speak to your doctor first. It’s a good idea to get their go-ahead on your travel plans before making any bookings, just to make sure they are happy. They will also be able to prescribe extra medication to cover your trip if need be, as well as supplying a copy of your prescription and a doctor’s letter giving you permission to take your medicine with you to your chosen destination, if need be.
- If you will be flying, get an up-to-date blood pressure reading as close as possible to the date you fly. There should be no reason why you cannot travel by air, but it’s a good idea to check your blood pressure with your doctor before you go, especially if you haven’t had a blood pressure test for over a year. When you’re on board, remember to move around the aeroplane cabin regularly, do gentle leg exercises while in your seat, and avoid salty snacks and alcohol.
- Plan when to take your medication. If you will be travelling to a different time zone, make sure to factor in the time difference. Most medicine for high blood pressure is taken daily – if that’s the case for you, the most important thing is to stick to one dose within a 24-hour period. It’s better to have a slight gap between doses than to take two too close together.
- Be aware of how activities may affect you. You should be able to take part in most activities while you’re away, but anything that could include sudden changes in pressure are best avoided, such as scuba diving. Using saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs shouldn’t be a problem, but make sure that you are well-hydrated beforehand, limit your time and have someone with you. The heat can lower your blood pressure, making you feel faint and light-headed, especially if you also take blood pressure medication.
- Know how to recognise the signs of high blood pressure, even if your condition is under control. A spike in your blood pressure can cause symptoms such as dizziness, chest pains, an erratic heartbeat, confusion, headaches and problems with your vision.
- Arrange medical travel insurance for high blood pressure. It’s vital that your travel insurance provider both knows about and can provide cover for your condition.
At Free Spirit, we specialise in offering high blood pressure travel insurance for people of any age, with a wealth of medical and non-medical benefits. Simply contact us to find out more about our travel insurance for high blood pressure, or apply for a quote online.