Answers for Pilots

Chill out

September 1, 2007

Controlling your blood pressure

Nearly one-third of the adult population in the United States has high blood pressure (properly called hypertension) according to the American Heart Association, and, amazingly, more than half of those afflicted are doing nothing to control it. For pilots, keeping blood pressure controlled is essential in order to qualify for medical certificates. Current Federal Aviation Regulations do not impose blood pressure limits for any class of medical certificate; however, the FAA has established a policy by which persons with controlled blood pressure may be certified at any class of medical.

For medical certification purposes, the FAA considers blood pressure controlled when the average sitting blood pressure does not exceed 155mm mercury systolic and 95mm mercury diastolic with or without medication. If you need medication to keep your blood pressure within acceptable limits, rest easy knowing that the FAA currently allows most FDA-approved anti-hypertension agents, including diuretics, angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blocking agents, direct vasodilators, or combinations of these agents.

So, how do you prepare for your FAA medical exam if your previously normal blood pressure has risen above the allowable limits since the last time you saw your aviation medical examiner (AME), and your doctor has put you on one of the allowed medications to keep it down?

You'll need to bring the aviation medical examiner a current cardiovascular evaluation that includes:

  • A report of pertinent personal and family history, including an assessment of risk factors for coronary heart disease; a clinical examination that includes at least three blood pressure readings; a summary of medications and dosages; and statements regarding any side effects. Your doctor can complete AOPA's Hypertension Evaluation Worksheet to fulfill this part of the evaluation. It is available online or by calling AOPA (800/USA-AOPA) and talking to one of the Medical Certification staff.
  • A resting electrocardiogram (done within the preceding six months).
  • A current (within the preceding three months) laboratory report of fasting plasma glucose and blood lipids, including total cholesterol, HDL and LDL, triglycerides. If diuretics are being taken, potassium and creatinine levels are also required.

The AME has to have all of this information at the time of the FAA physical examination in order to issue your medical certificate in the office. If you don't have it, the examiner can hold the application for up to 10 working days to allow you to get the information to complete the evaluation. Otherwise, the application will be deferred to the FAA without the reports, and it could take three months or longer before your medical certificate is issued. So, it's in your best interest to show up at the AME's office with all of the paperwork in hand.

For more information, contact the AOPA Pilot Information Center Medical Certification department, 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).

Membership Q&A

Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership

Q: Whom should I contact if I don't want to receive phone calls from AOPA?

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Contact information

Phone: 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time from Monday through Friday
E-mail: memberservices@aopa.org
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