Want to travel and heart disease has you concerned? According to doctors, many people living with heart diseasecan travel safely - but there are some important things to consider. Here are some guidelines - but be sure to check with your own doctor.
Travel is permitted if:
Travel restrictions may be recommended if:
If you have heart disease and diabetes, things can be more complicated - consult with your cardiologist.
Getting Ready to Go
If you haven't had a checkup recently, see your doctor. Ask if any tests are warranted to confirm that your cardiac disease is stable.
Flying generally doesn't pose significant risks to most people with heart disease. According to the British Heart Foundation, if you are fit enough to climb a flight of stairs without stopping, you are fit enough to fly. Another source suggests if you can walk briskly for 100 metres on flat ground without being breathless or in pain, you can fly.
Cardiac incidents occur only in 1 to 2 patients per million during air travel. But although the risk of angina, heart attack, and irregular heartbeat or other major complications is small among people with stable heart disease, researchers say heart-related problems account for a high percentage of all in-flight medical emergencies. Today, many commercial airplanes and public places, including airports, have automated defibrillators.
There is no evidence that flying interferes with pacemakers or implantable defibrillators but implanted pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators can trigger metal detectors at security, so you should have documentation proving you have an implanted device and ask to be hand checked.
One of the risks of flying travel and heart disease is the formation of blood clots. Encouraging your circulation and avoiding dehydration will give you the best protection against blood clots forming and therefore against heart attack and stroke:
In some cases you may want to consider wearing compression stockings to avoid blood clots.
Some people with heart disease need to avoid flying because of the increased risk in a high-altitude, low-oxygen environment. Airplane cabins are pressurized to the equivalent of approximately 10,000 feet above sea level.
You should not fly if:
Travel by car, bus, boat or train remove the altitude issues and offer more options for periodic movement. In a train, you may be able to walk in the aisle to reduce the risk of blood clots. Of course when you are traveling by car you have the opportunity to stop as necessary to stretch and move about.
You might even want to consider smart heart vacations such as walking and cycling tours or relaxation retreats.
Medical and Travel Insurance
If you have heart disease you need insurance to protect you in the event of a cardiac event while you are away. With medical bills easily running into thousands of dollars, obtaining suitable travel insurance if you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition is an absolute must. Many policies exclude pre-existing conditions or impose terms that are unacceptable. Check with your insurer to confirm that any conditions you have are covered to your satisfaction. You may have to shop around for the right coverage.
Travel to developing countries
There are always risks associated with visiting developing countries. Assess the risk and consider the precautions listed above before you make your decision.
Depending on your condition you might be wise to avoid high-altitude destinations or plan to arrive at the altitude gradually to allow your body to adjust.
Finally, take a responsible approach to travel and heart disease - remember to check with your physician before setting off on your journey.