Vacations And Hypertension

The vacations can be planned in such a way that it serves the health needs. Doctors are frequently asked how often should vacations be taken and for how long. It is important for people with high blood pressure to get away from their “job with its attendant worries and problems” once a while. So if at all possible the patient can take two annual vacations of one-two weeks each. It is better that he avoids the summer crowds and hot months. This does not give him the needed rest-spring and fall are far better times. The shorter and less strenuous the trip a person takes, the more remote and restful the area is and the greater are his chances of rest and relaxation. Wooded rolling hills or mountain foothills are ideal spots but the seashore in mild climates is also recommended. It is however best to stay away from the tropics. As far as mountains are concerned elevations of between 1,300 and 2,600 feet are fine although people with mild hypertension can tolerate heights of up to 5,000 ft. But for persons with severe hypertension and congestive heart failure elevations of more than 4,000 feet are definitely hazardous. Everyone with high blood pressure should avoid too rapid changes in altitudes such as going up a mountain in a cable car.

Car Travel: If at all possible it is better to leave the car at home, particularly if one is planning a long trip. One day behind the wheel is more strenuous than a full days’ work and without a car the person gets more rest once he has arrived at his destination. For short trip renting a bicycle is ideal. If a person feels absolutely helpless without a car, he can take it but he must make frequent rest stops and must avoid driving on crowded highways.

Flying: On short flights there are no great changes in cabin pressure and most patients can take such trips without running any risk. On long trips flying at altitudes of between 33,000 and 40,000 feet (equivalent to land altitudes of 6,500-8000 feet) people with controlled pressure generally fare quite well, probably because they are resting but the rapid pressure changes in take­off and landing can cause serious problems. It is therefore important that

  1. person suffering from malignant hypertension (extremely high BPs of 200/120 to 250/140 progressing rapidly and damaging kidney, eyes, heart, brain, etc.)
  2. persons whose pressure is not controlled
  3. who have cerebrovascular problems, angina pectoris, arrhythmic, corenary insufficiency
  4. who are recovering from a heart attack should not fly or certainly not without first consulting their doctor. While flying the hypertensives should avoid foods likely to produce gaseous distension (gas), carbonated beverages and must adjust their medications schedule to changes in the time zones.

Spas: European spas with mineral water cures should be avoided because of the high sodium content of most such waters. At any rate doctor must be consulted before taking any cure.

Sunbathing and Saunas: Over-exposure to sun and heat are not advisable if especially a person is on strong anti-hypertensive drugs. This means staying aways from southern beaches. Moderate sunbathing in temperate climates and moderate physical activity are permitted. The heat of sauna bath puts no greater strain on the heart and circulation than do swimming and jogging but it should not be followed by an ice cold shower or a plunge into an icy pool. This can drive the blood pressure of a person to dangerously high levels. First the person has to cool off before taking a cool shower. People with moderately high blood pressure generally have no trouble with saunas. Persons with very high or poorly controlled blood pressure or persons suffering from congestive heart failure or angina pectoris should stay away from saunas. Whatever be the blood pressure (mild, moderate or high) it is better that the doctor makes the decision regarding taking sauna.

Another important point for the hypertensives who are on a vacation is that they should not deviate from their diet and should not forget to take their medication (in a relaxed vacation the blood pressure will go down, but this should not be a reason for a person to discontinue drugs). The person can consult a doctor if on self blood pressure measurement his blood pressure value has decreased. The doctor can decide on reducing the dose of medicine. If a person is going to a foreign country he must be sure to carry an adequate supply of his medication as it may not be available in the place he is visiting.