High blood pressure disqualifying?

November 6, 2012

pps
Warren Silberman

Warren Silberman

  • Former Manager, FAA Aerospace Medical Certification 
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine 
  • Expert in Aerospace/Preventive Medicine 
  • Pilot since 1986

I was going through my emails and came across a weekly one that concentrates on selling airplanes, and to my shock in the middle of the page there was a large-print advertisement that said "CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR MEDICAL? or HAVE YOU ALREADY LOST IT? MOST PILOTS LOSE THEIR MEDICAL BECAUSE OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. WE CAN HELP YOU KEEP IT OR GET IT BACK! Is your life worth $599.00?" It proceeded to tout the use of what I would call an alternative medication that one could purchase from this “business.”

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I attended AOPA Aviation Summit several weeks ago and continue to be surprised about how many airmen are concerned over losing their medical certification should they develop high blood pressure requiring treatment. Well, the malarkey in the above paragraph and the concern over loss of one's medical should they require treatment for high blood pressure could not be further from the truth! As we have mentioned in earlier articles, approximately 590,000 airmen are currently medically certified, and out of them, more than 64,000 airmen are flying with high blood pressure on medication(s). So, it is not true that most airmen lose their medical because of high blood pressure!

Due to the number of airmen with this condition the federal air surgeon does not even require the airman to possess a "special issuance" (waiver). An airman must inform the FAA at the time of his or her next medical examination if the airman requires treatment for diagnosed high blood pressure. You need to go to the AOPA Medical Certification Assistance website prior to your medical examination and have your treating physician provide you with the required letter and testing. If all the material is favorable and your blood pressure in the AME's office is less than 155/95 (there are techniques that your AME can do to demonstrate to the FAA that your BP is better than 155/95, should it be that or higher in the office when it is taken) he/she can issue you your medical certificate for any class.

So what does one need to do when he or she is treated for high blood pressure? For the first FAA examination after the diagnosis is made you are to bring a letter from your treating physician that addresses the history of your high blood pressure, notes whether you have any organ damage as a result of the condition, mentions your risk factors for heart disease, and gives a short immediate family history. You will also need to provide a current electrocardiogram, lipid panel, and fasting blood sugar. The FAA allows just about all the medications used to treat high blood pressure with the exception of several medications known as "centrally acting agents". Check the AOPA Database of Medications when your doctor initially suggests one.

If you bring all the above data to the AME's office and it all appears favorable and the remainder of the examination is also ok, you will walk out of the office with your medical certificate in hand!

For more information on the AOPA Pilot Protection Services program, visit www.aopa.org/pps.