Frankie Wallace is a freelance journalist with an interest in aviation news and politics. Wallace graduated from University of Montana’s Journalism School and currently resides in Boise, Idaho. The views expressed in this article are solely his and do not represent those of Aeronautics Online.
If you’ve always dreamed of flying a plane, setting your sights on becoming a pilot might be the ideal career choice. There are plenty of benefits to being a pilot, including a generous salary, the chance for you and your family to fly for free, and the opportunity to see some amazing destinations.
Becoming a pilot might be your dream job, but even if you receive the proper schooling and are talented at flying, health issues could prevent you from earning your pilot’s license. If you already know that you have high blood pressure, you’ll need to consider how that could affect your career.
Understanding High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one out of every three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, meaning that the pressure of the blood within the blood vessels is higher than what’s considered normal. Of the 75 million people in the country who have high blood pressure, only half have their blood pressure under control with diet, lifestyle changes, or medication.
Your doctor will likely inform you if your blood pressure is high, but you can also use a blood pressure machine at a local pharmacy to check. Blood pressure is measured using a set of two numbers: Systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure exerted on your blood vessels as your heart beats, while diastolic blood pressure, refers to the pressure that exists in your blood vessels between your heartbeats. A reading of less than 120/80 mmHg is considered normal, while a pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg can indicate that you are at risk for high blood pressure. If your pressure measures over 140/90 mmHg, it is considered high.
If your blood pressure is consistently high, you may be diagnosed with hypertension. This condition means that you face an increased risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. Factors such as being a male, being over age 65, and having high cholesterol and blood sugar levels can all increase your risk of developing hypertension. Other common causes include obesity, living an inactive lifestyle, consuming too much sodium, eating a diet that’s too low in potassium, and consuming alcohol in excess. Some medications can also contribute to hypertension. Often, hypertension can be managed with lifestyle and diet changes.
How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Chances of Becoming a Pilot
Before you earn your pilot’s license, you’ll need to pass a Federal Aviation Administration-required medical examination. While high blood pressure won’t automatically disqualify you from getting your license, you’ll need to show that you can treat and manage the condition.
If your blood pressure is 155/95 or higher during the medical examination, you will need to have your blood pressure measured every morning and night over the course of the next three days. If four readings fall below 155/95, you can be medically approved. But if your readings aren’t low enough, you will need to start a treatment plan to better control your blood pressure.
If you have a history of hypertension and have started a treatment plan, expect to be tested for hypertension annually. Your doctor will also need to provide a summary of the plan, outlining the medications used and how effective the plan is in regulating your blood pressure.
Blood pressure isn’t the only potential barrier to earning your pilot’s license. The Federal Aviation Administration also enforces eyesight requirements for pilots, particularly for transport and commercial pilots. You’ll need to pass a vision check when you first earn your license, and professional pilots need to have their medical certificate and vision test renewed every six months.
Strategies to Lower High Blood Pressure
Fortunately, you can control your blood pressure with various strategies. Changing your diet so that you consume less sodium but plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can help. Incorporating exercise, such as a brisk walk three to five days a week, can also help to lower your blood pressure. If you smoke cigarettes, it’s important to quit. Your doctor may have additional advice based on your specific lifestyle and health, and they may also prescribe a medication to help with the process.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil can also help to lower high blood pressure. CBD can help to manage stress, anxiety, and insomnia symptoms, all of which can contribute to high blood pressure. CBD oil also has calming effects, which can lower your blood pressure. Inflammation can drive up your blood pressure, and CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can help to reduce that effect.
While CBD and various medications may lower blood pressure, always make sure that any products you use are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Blood pressure can affect your chances of becoming a pilot, but if you work with your doctor and create a plan, blood pressure may not be an issue at all.
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