A fly can have a heart attack

Travel: Flying with a sick heart

Can you fly after a heart attack?

Whether a patient is fit to fly after a heart attack depends on the severity of the infarction and how well the heart has recovered from it. This needs to be examined by a cardiologist. A low risk exists, for example, if the patients are younger than 65 years old, have had a heart attack for the first time - and the emergency treatment was successful: the blocked vessel is permeable again, the heart's ejection rate is over 45 percent and there are no complications .

In such a case, patients can fly a short distance of one to two hours just five to eight days after a small infarct. However, they should initially refrain from long-haul flights.

After a more severe heart attack, or if there are additional risks and complications, patients may have to wait until their condition has stabilized before flying.

Flying with a weak heart?

Whether a patient with heart failure can risk a flight depends on the remaining pumping power of the organ. This is determined by the cardiologist according to the NYHA classification. In the case of chronically stable cardiac insufficiency, who only have complaints in everyday life with moderate physical exertion (NYHA levels I + II), there is full suitability for air travel. At least for seven hours of flight duration - there is no study data for flight times beyond that.

Patients with heart failure of NYHA level III, who suffer from symptoms even with light exertion, can still risk an hour's flight. On longer flights you need an oxygen device, which has to be approved by the airline in advance. Patients who have problems even at rest (NYHA level IV) should not fly at all.

Unfit to fly are also anyone whose condition has worsened in the four weeks prior to the flight. Signs are shortness of breath, weight gain due to water retention, exhaustion, tightness of the heart, or arrhythmia.

Place near the toilet

A travel tip from the heart experts: When booking, patients with heart failure should book an aisle seat near the toilet. Because the dehydrating agents that most people take, combined with the lack of oxygen, increase the urge to urinate.

Heart diseases are widespread in Germany. Around six million people suffer from coronary artery disease (CHD), in which the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle are narrowed. CHD is the most common cause of heart attack and heart failure. (cf)

You can find more about flying with heart disease in the brochure of the German Heart Foundation "Air travel - also with CHD and heart weakness", which can be requested free of charge at www.herzstiftung.de/fliegen-ektiven-herz.

Source: Deutsche Herzstiftung press release: Air travel after a heart attack or with heart failure: What do those affected have to consider? May 2016

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