Being diagnosed with a chronic illness like heart failure instantly makes you think about the rest of your life. “How will this impact my family? Will I be able to do the things I love? Can I travel?” These are common questions that every heart failure patient has.
According to the Ted Rogers Centre For Heart Research, 50,000 new people are diagnosed with heart failure every year.
Despite this figure, heart failure is an illness that can be managed. This means you can still enjoy doing the things you love when you take some time to get organized and plan ahead. Living with heart failure shouldn't stop you from enjoying life and traveling to the places you always wanted to visit.
We’ve rounded up the following tips to help make things a little easier when traveling with heart failure.
Prepare in advance for air travel
Although oxygen levels are slightly lower on an airplane, air travel generally isn’t a problem for those with stable heart failure. However, your doctor may recommend supplemental oxygen for your flight if your symptoms have worsened recently. Make sure to contact the airline before booking your trip to ensure their policy allows for supplemental oxygen usage and make the necessary arrangements.
Many travellers experience swollen ankles and muscle cramps as a result of sitting still for extended periods on an aircraft. To help reduce these effects and prevent blood clots, you can wear knee-high compression stockings during your flight. Walking around the cabin and stretching regularly can also help maintain continuous blood flow. Additionally, staying hydrated and avoiding alcohol are also helpful.
Pack weather-suitable clothing
Your body should never get too hot or too cold because extreme changes in temperature can put undue stress on your heart. This is why you should pack the right clothing for the destination that you’ll be visiting. It also means you don’t have to worry about finding a store when you arrive. Think of packing light, loose, and comfortable clothing for hot destinations and warm layers for colder locations. You can also bring a hat for extra protection. Find out more about managing heart failure in the heat here.
When you’re travelling, it’s imperative to make sure that you have enough medication with you as delays can happen unexpectedly. You can ask your doctor to write a letter outlining what your medication is (plus the generic name), and the dosage. It’s important to carry your medication in your hand luggage so that you have it at hand when you need it to avoid any issues if your luggage is lost. You can contact the airline you’re flying with ahead of time to see if there are any rules regarding carrying medication. Once you arrive at your destination, you can set an alarm at the local time you would usually take your medication.
Maintaining your diet
It can be difficult to maintain your regular diet when you're travelling. To help limit any symptom changes, you can watch your salt intake, limit your alcohol consumption, and ensure you’re getting enough fluids. Eating regular nutritious meals can help ensure you get your recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables. Doing a grocery shop and preparing your own meals and snacks whenever possible also helps.
Securing travel insurance is one of the most vital things to do before you depart for your vacation. You can save a copy of your policy on your smartphone or print out a copy and keep it in your wallet. Discuss your travel insurance plan with a broker representative to make sure the policy you get covers any medical treatments that you may need and includes coverage for pre-existing conditions. It's also helpful to have a clear understanding of the steps you should take if you need emergency care during your vacation.
Preparing for emergency situations before you go traveling is key because you can never anticipate when something is going to happen. You can find out where the nearest hospital is to the location where you'll be staying, get a half page summary of your medical status from your cardiologist, and also have your doctor’s number in your smartphone if you need to make an emergency call.
Everyone deserves a vacation to unwind, and those with heart failure are no exception. Although the experience may be different for each individual patient, planning is vital for a smooth transition and enjoyable holiday experience.
IF YOU’RE LIVING WITH HEART FAILURE, OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS THIS CHRONIC ILLNESS, CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR CLOSED FACEBOOK SUPPORT GROUP AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION