Travelling With Heart Disease? Essential Tips Before You Go

When planning a holiday or short break with a pre-existing condition like heart disease, understandably it may feel daunting.

Even if you’ve travelled plenty of times before, each new adventure naturally comes with its own fresh concerns and apprehension.

Fortunately, with a bit of careful planning, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy your holiday to the fullest whilst managing your condition.

To help, below you’ll find some essential tips to keep in mind before and during your trip, with the hope that you’ll feel empowered with the confidence and knowledge to safely explore the world even with a heart condition.

From essential pre-travel check-ups to tips for staying heart-healthy whilst away, there’s nothing like the feeling of being well-prepared to help settle any nerves or worries before you set off. 

Understanding Your Condition

Before you pack your bags or book your tickets, the first and most crucial step is to have a comprehensive understanding of your heart condition.

This will help you to make informed decisions about your travel plans.

If you have recently been diagnosed or had treatment for a heart condition, you’ll want to ensure you are fully recovered first before going on holiday, as recommended by the British Heart Foundation.

  • Personal Health Assessment – Recognise how your condition affects your daily activities and what specific triggers or symptoms you need to manage.
  • Consult Your GP – A visit to your healthcare provider or GP is advisable to discuss your travel plans and undergo a thorough check-up to assess your fitness for travel. They can provide personalised advice based on your medical history and current condition.
  • Know Your Symptoms – Familiarise yourself with the warning signs of heart trouble and the steps to take if you experience these symptoms while away. Being aware of the location of the nearest medical facilities at your destination will also be useful.

Pre-Travel Preparation – Common Questions 

Once you have a firm understanding of your heart condition and how it impacts your travel plans, the next step is to prepare meticulously for your trip.

Travelling with heart disease requires thoughtful preparation, so to help, here are some common questions to help you plan a safe and enjoyable journey.

Why Is A Pre-travel Medical Check-up Essential?

A pre-travel check-up assesses your health stability and fitness for travel, ensuring your heart condition is well-managed before you depart.

It’s an opportunity to review and adjust medications, discuss travel-related health risks, and get vaccinations if needed.

This check-up is crucial for minimizing potential health risks while away from home.

Is It Safe To Fly With A Heart Condition?

For many people with heart conditions, flying is safe, but it depends on the nature and stability of your condition.

The cabin environment on commercial flights, with reduced oxygen levels and low air pressure, can pose challenges for some heart conditions.

If you have high blood pressure, it is generally safe to fly if it is under control.

Ideally, you’ll want to avoid travelling to destinations with high altitudes above 2,000 metres.

This is because there is less oxygen the higher above sea level you go which can cause angina or difficulty breathing.

You’ll want to discuss with your GP if you are planning any hiking excursions for example.

What Should Be Included In A Travel Health Kit?

Your travel health kit should go in your carry-on luggage and contain:

  • All necessary heart medications. Look to take 2 sets of medication with you and keep these separate just in case one is misplaced. 
  • A list of your prescriptions and a letter from your doctor detailing your condition and medications and if you have any medical devices such as a pacemaker or ICD.
  • A medical alert bracelet or card that states your heart condition and emergency contact information.

How To Select Travel Insurance That Covers Heart Conditions?

As it’s essential to have comprehensive travel insurance whether you have a heart condition or not, you’ll want to choose a policy that explicitly covers pre-existing conditions, including emergency medical treatment, cancellation, and repatriation.

Check the coverage details for any exclusions or limitations related to heart disease and ensure the policy matches your destination’s potential health risks and your specific health needs.

How Do I Manage Medications Across Time Zones?

It’s best to consult with your GP or specialist about adjusting your medication schedule to accommodate time zone changes.

Flying through time zones can make it difficult when trying to keep to your normal routine.

The British Heart Foundation recommend taking them normally on the day you travel and then 12 hours later or as prescribed, until you are acclimatized.

Keep a record of your schedule and set alarms on your phone as reminders to take your medication at the correct times.

Adapting Your Travel Plans For Heart Health

Creating travel plans that accommodate your heart health is essential for a safe and enjoyable trip.

You want to make the most of your time whilst away without having to worry, so here are some of the ways to adapt your travel plans, ensuring they align with your health needs.

Travelling With Medication

Keep medications in original packaging and carry a doctor’s note to show airline staff as well as airport security.

Keep these in your hand luggage, but you may want to keep some in any checked bags too just in case one goes missing – the last thing you want is for your luggage to be delayed for any reason leaving you without your medication.

Check with the airline if you need to take any liquid, gels or creams over the maximum 100ml in your hand luggage as you may require a doctor’s note and approval from the airline before you get to the airport.

Hot And Cold Climates

You will want to choose a destination that has a mild climate, as the hotter or colder it is, the harder your heart will have to work.

However, you can visit hotter or colder countries if you take precautions.

It’s best to discuss this with your GP if you are planning to go somewhere with extremes in temperature.

  • Hot Climates – Stay hydrated and avoid peak sun hours (11am – 3pm) to prevent overheating. Wear a suitable hat and sunglasses too and ensure you have plenty of suncream.
  • Cold Climates – Dress in layers and limit exposure to cold to maintain normal blood pressure and reduce heart strain. The cold can cause your heart rate to increase as well as your blood pressure, so wrapping up warm can help avoid this.  

Activity Level Adjustments

It’s best to plan realistically and choose activities that match your physical capabilities.

Opt for sightseeing tours with minimal walking or museums with plenty of seating.

Avoid over-scheduling and allow time for plenty of rest.

Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you feel fatigued or experience any symptoms, take a break or adjust your plans accordingly.

Keep your plans flexible and look to adapt if you become stressed – after all, plenty of downtime and relaxation are what holidays are all about.

Dietary Management On The Move

It’s best to research dining options and look for hotels and accommodation with kitchen facilities, or restaurants that offer heart-healthy menu options.

Planning ahead helps you maintain a balanced diet. You’ll want to ensure you don’t increase your daily salt intake and avoid processed meals as well as limiting your alcohol consumption.

Bringing along healthy snacks will help you avoid relying on fast food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always good options.

By all means, treat yourself when on holiday but keep this under control. Ensure you have plenty of water intake too so you can stay properly hydrated.

Stay Safe & Enjoy Your Break

Overall, your holiday is a chance to relax and rewind, and having heart disease shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your time away.

By being fully prepared and speaking to your GP or specialist before you go, you’ll be on your way to a fulfilling trip.

For more information to help you prepare, visit the British Heart Foundation website at bhf.org.uk. 

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