The risk of high altitude to people with unruptured brain aneurysms appears to be relatively low. But lower oxygen levels and variations in barometric pressure can affect your circulatory system.

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People often wonder if they have an increased risk of brain aneurysms at high altitudes. The relationship between brain aneurysms and high altitudes is not fully understood, but the risk appears to be relatively low.

When you travel to high altitudes, you experience reduced oxygen levels, lower air pressure, and several physiological changes. All of these factors could potentially increase the risk of a life threatening rupture, but there is no evidence to support this theory.

This article explores everything you need to know about the potential link between brain aneurysms, ruptures, and high altitudes.

The link between high altitudes and the risk of brain aneurysm rupture has yet to be extensively studied. This means there isn’t much information available.

But the fact that few known cases have been reported may mean the risk is relatively low.

High altitudes, where you find decreased oxygen levels and lower barometric pressure, do have some effects on the body. These could theoretically impact an existing brain aneurysm.

How high is high altitude?

Altitudes above 8,000 feet or 2,500 meters are generally considered high altitudes. When skiing, hiking, or climbing, you might experience mild symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue while your body adjusts.

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Living with an unruptured brain aneurysm means you have a weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel in your brain that could rupture and cause a life threatening stroke.

When exposed to decreased oxygen levels, the blood vessels in the brain may constrict (vasoconstriction) to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery. This could increase stress on the weakened vessel walls of your aneurysm.

Lower barometric could also cause air pockets trapped inside the aneurysm to expand, which would put more pressure on its walls. This could increase the risk of rupture.

Factors such as the size, location, and stability of the aneurysm, and your overall health, are also important in determining your risk of rupture.

Being at a high altitude can significantly affect your body, particularly your vascular system, which includes your heart and blood vessels. When you ascend to higher altitudes, there’s less oxygen in the air.

Your cardiovascular system has to work harder to deliver oxygen to all your tissues and organs. Your heart and breathing rates may increase to compensate for the lower oxygen availability.

Additionally, as you ascend to higher altitudes, the air becomes less dense, leading to lower barometric pressure. The barometric pressure refers to the pressure from the air around you.

This change in pressure can make the air in your body expand, leading to discomfort and bloating. It can even cause altitude-related sickness like acute mountain sickness (AMS) or high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).

If you have a brain aneurysm, flying is generally considered safe, and elevation or cabin pressure changes are unlikely to affect the aneurysm directly.

During a flight, the cabin pressure does change, but these changes are typically small and well-tolerated by most people, including those with brain aneurysms.

Commercial aircraft are pressurized to simulate an altitude below 8,000 feet which is generally safe for people with aneurysms.

What to do if your aneurysm ruptures

If your aneurysm ruptures, call emergency services immediately and provide them with your location and details. Stay as calm as possible while waiting for medical help, avoiding strenuous activities or sudden movements.

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When you have a brain aneurysm and you’re traveling or living at high altitudes, you might want to take certain precautions. Consider talking with a healthcare professional to assess the risks associated with high altitudes and your specific aneurysm.

You should also take it easy, avoid strenuous activities, and allow your body to acclimate to the altitude gradually.

While you’re there, be vigilant for any potential early signs of a problem with your brain aneurysm, including:

If you experience these signs, contact a doctor or emergency services immediately.

While there’s limited evidence linking high altitudes to an increased risk of brain aneurysm rupture, people with brain aneurysms should exercise caution at high altitudes. Talk with a healthcare professional to assess potential risks before engaging in high-altitude activities.