Blood pressure refresher

AOPA's medical certification staff members in the Pilot Information Center routinely deal with all types of questions from our members regarding medical conditions that affect certification. At or very near the top of that list consistently over the years is the topic of high blood pressure. That’s certainly understandable since we are an aging pilot population, and elevated blood pressure is prevalent in that group.

What’s interesting though is the level of concern pilots have that their medical certificate will be in jeopardy once they start taking medications. In many cases, the fear of losing their medical may actually be contributing in part to their blood pressure problem, and the more fearful they become, the more they fear calling us and asking for fear that the answer will be bad.

Not to worry. Adequately controlled hypertension is probably the simplest medical certification issue there is to take care of. In fact, the FAA just last year further simplified the process by eliminating the need for an electrocardiogram and laboratory blood work. Now, there is a simple worksheet that requires basic information from your treating doctor that you will provide to your aviation medical examiner at the time of your next FAA physical examination. If the worksheet indicates appropriate medication therapy and good control, the AME will issue your medical certificate to you at the time of the examination. For each subsequent medical renewal, the process will be the same, so  as long as you are on no more than three blood pressure medications, and your maximum blood pressure does not exceed 155/95 (a high maximum, by the way, but this is regulatory medicine, not clinical medicine), you will have no problems maintaining your medical.

So relax, and get that high blood pressure treated sooner rather than later. The risks of untreated hypertension—stroke, heart attack and heart failure, kidney failure, and death—are much more complicated certification challenges. Treat the condition first and get it under control, then you can deal with your next medical certificate renewal without fear of denial. 

As always, if you have any questions about medical certification, give the medical certification specialists in the Pilot Information Center a call at 800/USA-AOPA!

Portrait of Gary Crump, AOPA's director of medical certification with a Cessna 182 Skylane at the National Aviation Community Center.
Frederick, MD USA
Gary Crump
Gary is the Director of AOPA’s Pilot Information Center Medical Certification Section and has spent the last 32 years assisting AOPA members. He is also a former Operating Room Technician, Professional Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician, and has been a pilot since 1973.

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