Travelling Safely with Heart Disease: Travel tips from Dr Handford

Heart disease affects many people, especially as we get older. Problems such as angina, previous heart surgery, and an irregular heartbeat are increasingly common. However, with some sensible planning, travelling abroad is entirely possible.

Choosing your destination

  • When deciding where to go, give some thought to how long you are willing to travel for, and how tiring a long journey can be. Ensure you plan regular breaks and can break your journey to rest if you need to.
  • If you travel to a destination at high altitude, you may find that you feel more breathless than usual. If you suffer with breathlessness anyway, it would be sensible to stay nearer to sea level. Being at a high altitude can bring on an angina attack if you are prone to them- make sure you always have your GTN spray or tablets with you if your GP has prescribed them for you.

Safe Journey

  • Everybody's ankles can swell slightly on a long journey, but if you have a heart condition you may be more prone to this than usual. Make sure you elevate your legs if possible, and keep as mobile as you are able. If you are on a flight, try to walk around for 5 minutes every hour, at least.
  • Flight socks can help minimise ankle swelling, and prevent deep vein thrombosis in the legs too. However, check with your GP before investing in a pair- if you have circulation problems in your legs they may advise you against wearing compression socks.
  • Make sure you carry a supply of your medications with you in your hand luggage, as well as in your hold baggage too. If your luggage gets lost in transit you won't be left without essential medication. It is best to take original packaging, as well as a repeat prescription list from your GP with you in case the airline wants to check what you are carrying.

Rest & Relaxation!

  • Depending on the type of holiday you choose, you may find yourself trying to do more exercise than you are used to. Sightseeing on foot is a great way to see lots of cities, but can be physically demanding. Make sure you don't take on too much, and build up your activity levels slowly. Consider having rest days, or using escorted tours to see some of the sights. Listen to your body- if you are feeling worn out, take a break and enjoy some rest.
  • It is sensible to stick to the recommended daily alcohol limits even when you are on holiday. Drinking to excess puts extra strain on your heart and can cause dehydration. Try to eat healthily too- stick to grilled foods rather than fried, and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. The occasional treat is entirely understandable, but by looking after your heart on holiday, you'll be able to enjoy yourself without running in to longer term problems.

Monitoring yourself

  • If you have a degree of heart failure, you may be prone to leg swelling and breathlessness. Your GP may talk to you about monitoring your weight as a good indicator of whether you are retaining fluid. This can be a useful clue that you need to increase your water tablets, and could prevent you becoming unwell whilst away. Discuss with your doctor whether this may be useful for you.

There are many different kinds of heart condition, and they needn't be a barrier to a successful, enjoyable holiday. Make sure you think ahead, be well prepared, and listen to your body. Have a chat with your doctor before you travel to ensure your trip goes well.

Always consult your own doctor before travelling

These travel tips are intended to provide general information for those with heart conditions and do not replace a visit to your doctor. If you are planning a holiday you should consult your doctor to ensure that you are fit to travel and discuss any specific health requirements you may have.

About Dr Ruth Handford

Dr Ruth Handford is a GP with over 10 years' experience of working in both hospital and primary care. She is particularly interested in caring for the elderly in the community, child health, and family planning. Ruth lives and works in a rural community, and is kept very busy by her job and young family.

Important Information: These travel tips are intended to provide general information for those with heart conditions and do not replace a visit to your doctor. If you are planning a holiday you should consult your doctor to ensure that you are fit to travel and discuss any specific health requirements you may have.

Travel Insurance for heart conditions

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommend that you have travel insurance in place every time you travel abroad. Make sure that your travel insurance covers any medical conditions you may have.

Goodtogoinsurance.com is proud to be able to provide cover for all types of heart conditions including angina, heart attack, blocked or narrowed arteries and atrial fibrillation.

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