Coronary Artery Disease and Flying

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Submitted by Dr T on November 14, 2012 – 7:36pm

Question: 
I’m scheduled to fly from south Florida to San Francisco on a direct flight – 6 hours.  I have a stent, placed in 2006 in the RCA (80%) blockage and I had a 50% blockage in my LAD which was not stented. I’m into menopause and I had my thyroid removed in 2010 due to a large nodule. My cholesterol was in good shape (LDL 70-100) until 2 years ago and it’s gotten progressively worse.  My latest #’s (Oct 2012) put me at 120 LDL, 47 HDL. I do have some symptoms particularly headaches and shortness of breath on exertion. 
I am also 240 pounds and have a BMI of 39.  I also have Lupus which creates sweats and inflammation.  I am heading to San Fransisco to the Eat to Live Seminar in hopes that I can learn the right way to eat so that I can improve my outlook so it’s an important trip.  I am concerned about the flight as is my cardiologist.  I have an aisle seat so I don’t have any problem getting up and walking around and I can wear compression socks but it’s the low oxygen content of the pressurized cabin and my shortness of breath that concerns my cardiologist and I.   He thinks the odds I will be fine but there is a tinge of concern. I think I need to go but I want to take the right precautions.  Do I need to get a portable oxygen device?  Are there tests I can take that can determine how I will react with lower oxygen?  What can I do to ensure the best odds on the trip? 

Hi Ellen,
There is no reason to be concerned about flying with/without oxygen unless there is objective evidence (rather than a “feeling”) you have untreated coronary blockages, easily evaluated with a stress test, and/or a CTCA.

That said, I don’t believe you need to fly across country to get advice about a proper diet. You can find plenty of information about heart-healthy living, including my website.

I recommend you to cancel your flight and the seminar, read what my site has to offer and spend your money on consultation and especially follow-up with a local nutritionist, as well as starting an exercise program once your heart is cleared!
Dr T

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