• Question: A person who has a heart disease is told not to fly in planes a lot. Why?

    Asked by Yuvi7 to Billy, Louise, Naomi, Rachel, Urvashi on 7 Mar 2015.
    • Photo: Urvashi Danookdharree

      Urvashi Danookdharree answered on 7 Mar 2015:

      As you know, the heart needs oxygen itself in order to be able to pump blood and as such oxygen to the whole body. When flying in a plane at a high altitude, the pressure decreases and the air becomes thinner. For a person with a normal heart, a small decrease in the oxygen level would not affect the person a lot. However, someone with a problematic heart, that small decrease may be a lot and as such causing the heart to work more that required leading to further problems. As such the patient needs to make sure they have the proper medicines with them as well as avoid air travel when possible depending on the severity of the heart problem.

    • Photo: Naomi Green

      Naomi Green answered on 7 Mar 2015:

      My route to becoming a biomedical engineer was to train as a mechanical engineer as such I don’t have any medical training. I didn’t even do Biology at A Level! I learn what I need to know when I am working on that part of the body. So far I have only worked on the spine and people’s joints so I don’t know much about the heart. I was going to give you my best guess but Urvashi seems to have answered it well for you!

    • Photo: Rachel Pallan

      Rachel Pallan answered on 8 Mar 2015:

      I am the same as Naomi, I didn’t do biology at A-level so was quite interested by Urvashi’s answer. Now I’m doing biomedical engineering I’m learning a lot on the job. This is why I love engineering it applies to everything and I’m always learning new things.

    • Photo: Louise France

      Louise France answered on 9 Mar 2015:

      Urvashi has covered the biology really well with her answer. I wondered if there was anything else that people with heart disease should be aware of when going on holiday, so did a little bit of research. Here’s some things I learned:

      1) Most people with heart disease are perfectly safe to fly without risking their health.
      2) It’s really important to carry a letter from your GP with you if you have a heart condition. This tells the airline what medication you are on, and how severe your conditions is. It also contains emergency contacts and the contact details of the patients’ cardiologist.
      3) People with a heart condition are at more risk of developing blood clots when flying, so should wear flight socks and walk around when possible.
      4) Carrying your medication with you is crucial, but so is controlling the amount of salt that you consume before flying, and the amount of water you drink. By controlling these, it is possible to lower the risk of flying with a heart condition.
      5) If you have a severe heart condition then you should avoid travelling to really hot or really cold countries as your heart has to work extra hard to pump the blood around your body to regulate your body temperature. The extra strain can be really damaging.
      6) Finally, if you are nervous about going abroad with a heart condition then you should only visit places that offer good medical treatment (I’d avoid the desert!!) and you should make sure that you have appropriate health insurance as treatment abroad can be VERY expensive!

      I hope you found this interesting! here’s a few links for further info 🙂