Health + Fitness
Six Important Tips for Traveling with Heart Disease
Living with heart disease puts limitations on many things. Many people with heart disease often think about life changes when diagnosed with an ailment they’ll live with for the rest of their lives. Some even wonder if it’s safe to travel.
Fortunately, heart disease doesn’t have to mean an absolute travel ban. It is natural to have doubts, but what if your symptoms worsen during the flight? How would you get timely help in a new and unfamiliar place? Is it safe to be in the air in the first place? So many questions.
Traveling puts you in uncomfortable situations, stress, confined spaces, and changing oxygen and air pressures at high altitudes, potentially worsening heart conditions.
However, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip with additional planning and awareness.
Yes, your doctor might recommend that you don’t travel by air if your heart isn’t stable, but if your doctor gives it a go, put aside your apprehensions, plan a little extra, and you are good to go.
The following are some very useful tips for planning your next tour:
1. Prepare in advance
When preparing for your flight, keep your heart condition in mind and pack anything and everything you might need. Visit your doctor and get your prescriptions filled; take every medicine you use because you might not get the same type at your destination.
Remember not to stow away your medication and important equipment in your suitcase; keep them in your carry-on bag so that they are easily accessible whenever the need arises.
Keep your defibrillator in an easy approach to have a quick solution in case of any emergency. If you haven’t bought one yet, it is time to get it; you can find defibrillators at variable prices; for reference, the cost of an Avive AED price is USD 1,395.00.
A defibrillator is an instant solution to a sudden cardiac arrest that can be life-threatening if not for immediate restoration of the heart rhythm. However, some defibrillators are unsuitable at an airport because the security equipment can interfere with its functioning. Consult the manufacturer to see if it is safe for use on travel.
2. Arrange for a portable oxygen concentrator
If you regularly use oxygen concentrators, you must arrange for them during the flight and at the destination. At least three weeks before your flight is due, contact the airlines and coordinate how you can manage it during the flight.
Some airlines might demand extra charges for allowing portable oxygen concentrators. Also, call a specialized medical service provider to arrange for oxygen at the destination.
Oxygen arrangement is most needed in flight since low air pressure at high altitudes can create complications. The partial pressure of oxygen decreases at higher altitudes. This change is usually inconsequential for passengers, but for heart patients, any such drop can lower oxygen concentration in the body.
3. Plan your entire trip in advance and consult your cardiologist
If you suffer from heart disease, the journey is not your only worry; what you do on your tour may also threaten your heart’s health, so plan in advance and talk to your cardiologist if the activities suit you.
Make a detailed outline; include your pre-holiday intentions, traveling, and activities for each day at the destination and the journey back home.
Consult your cardiologist or general practitioner to see if what you intend to do is safe. If you have planned any strenuous activity like hiking, swimming, or more walking than usual, discuss it with your doctor.
Though research does prove that physical activity is a major protective factor for many ailments, including heart disease, too much too soon can be a problem. Your doctor might recommend starting a walking program or cardiac rehabilitation to prepare for the physical activity you intend to do.
4. Identify a cardiologist in the host country
Being in an unfamiliar country without a reliable cardiologist during an emergency is not a good idea. You should be familiar with doctors near your destination before you leave for your flight. Talk to your cardiologist about it; they might be able to recommend a doctor in the host country.
If you are using Warfarin, you may have to check your INR (international normalized ratio) levels during the trip, so take a portable INR testing device. If not, your cardiologist will inform you of INR monitoring clinics at the destination so you can check it as soon as you land.
5. Avoid extreme environmental conditions
Certain environmental conditions seriously threaten your heart’s health if you have heart disease. Extreme cold or heat is dangerous because heart disease impairs your body’s temperature control system and homeostatic mechanism. Make sure to check the season and weather forecast at your destination.
Also, ensure that your airport has proper air conditioning and will not expose you to extreme hot or cold temperatures. Research indicates that air-conditioning offers the best protection against extreme heat, and electric fans are less effective in lowering body temperature.
6. Get a thorough pre-flight evaluation
Traveling isn’t safe if your heart condition isn’t stable, and only a recent examination can accurately tell if you are in good shape to travel. Before your trip, visit your doctor and take any pre-flight tests they recommend.
In general terms, your condition isn’t stable if you have had heart surgery or a heart attack in the last three months, a stroke in the past six months, very low blood pressure, chest pain in the previous three months, or an irregular heart rhythm.
Your doctor might suggest an exam to test your blood oxygen saturation; if it is lower than 91%, it is recommended that you don’t travel by air.
Living with heart disease can be a huge challenge, but it doesn’t necessarily have to limit your freedom completely.
If your heart’s condition is stable, you can enjoy international travel with only a few additional measures. But, be prepared for emergencies, have a portable oxygen concentrator, plan the entire trip in advance, locate a cardiologist in the host country, and get a thorough pre-flight examination.
If you manage your condition well and your doctor declares your situation stable, there is no need to worry.