Heart disease does not need to limit your ability to travel. Follow these pointers from Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute experts to enjoy a comfortable and heart-healthy vacation.
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Talk with your doctor
- If you are having any new symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor before you travel.
- If you have had a recent procedure or hospitalization, ask your doctor when it is safe to travel.
- Be prepared: check with your cardiologist to find out if he or she knows of a doctor to contact or find the closest medical center in your travel location in case of problems.
- If you have an irregular heartbeat, ask your doctor for a copy of your electrocardiogram (ECG). If you have access to an electronic medical record like Cleveland Clinic MyChart®, sign up for it so your records are at your fingertips.
- Be sure to have any immunizations required for the country you’re visiting and be up to date on your immunization and antimalarial recommendations. You may want to visit a travel clinic before you go.
Check your insurance coverage and make sure it will cover you where you are traveling. Consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance if your health insurance doesn’t cover medical evacuation.
- Make sure you will have enough medication to get you through the entire trip (if not, refill your prescription). Bring enough medication to cover you for a few extra days in case you are delayed for any reason.
- Make sure your medications are easily accessible in your bag while you are en route. If you are flying, bring all medication on your carry-on luggage.
- Make sure your medication is clearly labeled.
- Always have a water bottle in the event that you need to take your medication during travel time.
- Bring a snack if you need to take any medications with food.
If you fly
- Travel with a suitcase and carry-on that are on wheels; better yet, get help with your luggage from a porter or fellow travel mate.
- Request an aisle seat so you can easily get up and walk around.
- When traveling long distances, there is increased risk of blood clots (venous thrombosis).
- This is due to slower blood circulation when you are sitting for many hours and lower oxygen levels in the plane cabin.
- During the flight, get up from your seat at least once every two hours and walk up and down the aisles.
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks and try to elevate your feet above your chest level whenever you can.
- Wear compression stockings when traveling on a plane for more than eight hours or 3,100 miles.
- Stay hydrated with water and do not drink alcoholic beverages as they cause dehydration.
Flying with a heart device
- If you have a pacemaker or implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD), try to request special security clearance with a hand search at the airport.
- If a handheld device is used to clear a person through security checkpoints, ask the examiner to hold the handheld device over the ICD for no more than a few seconds.
- If you are traveling abroad, bring all contact numbers and web site addresses for pacemaker and ICD manufacturers.
While the risk of heart attack or other heart problems is small, the Federal Aviation Administration has made it a requirement for passenger-carrying aircraft to have on board an automated external defibrillator.
Diet and exercise
- Make sure you are well rested before your trip and get plenty of sleep while you travel.
- If you’ll be walking a lot on your getaway, start a walking program before you leave and wear the most comfortable travel shoes you can find.
- If you are on a special diet at home, follow your diet (as much as possible) on your trip. If you have heart failure, eating too much salt can bring on symptoms. To avoid salty snacks on the plane and during the trip, bring low-salt snacks with you.
When to seek help
Finally, if you are on vacation and have any heart symptoms, don’t be a hero. “Don’t be afraid to get checked for fear of spoiling your family vacation,” says Benico Barzilai, MD, Section Head of Clinical Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic.
“Be smart. Be sure to seek emergency room treatment should you have any chest pain, signs of a heart attack, or other symptoms of heart disease.”
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