What you need to know about traveling with heart disease

If you have heart disease, you might wonder if you can travel. Is it safe to fly? Are you fit enough for sightseeing? What happens if you have symptoms while on the road?

In many cases, people with heart disease may have very few, if any, limitations on traveling. While there are some things to keep in mind, with a bit of planning and awareness, you can have a safe, fun trip.

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Travel and Heart Conditions: Know Before You Go

Whether you want to visit the beach you’ve gone to for years or an exciting city halfway around the world, start with a trip to your doctor’s office.

Talk with your doctor about how you’re feeling, where you want to go, and what you want to do while you’re on vacation. If your plans include more strenuous activities than you do on a regular basis, like swimming, hiking, or even just more walking than usual, your doctor can help you figure out what is safe. In some cases, your doctor might recommend a walking program, or a round of cardiac rehabilitation, to help you get ready for the activities on your trip.

Your doctor could also suggest waiting to travel if:

And, if you have a pacemaker or implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD), your doctor can tell you how to safely navigate airport security.

Plan Ahead for Your Heart Health

Once your doctor tells you it’s safe to travel, find out about the local hospitals in the area you plan to visit. Your doctor may have recommendations for a heart center or a local cardiologist in case you have symptoms on your trip.

Remember that in more remote places, you might have a long drive — or an expensive flight — to the nearest hospital. Take a look at your health insurance to check on your out-of-area coverage, and consider getting traveler’s insurance in case of an emergency.

To manage your medication, get your prescriptions filled before you go, and remember that if you’re traveling overseas, the same types of medicines may not be available. Pack your medicine in a carry-on bag so you can get to it easily on a flight, and keep a bottle of water and healthy snacks with you as well.

Wherever you go, have a list of the medicines you take, as well as your cardiologist’s name and phone number, on you at all times.

Have a Safe Trip

Traveling can be stressful and tiring, and it’s easy to overdo it when visiting a new place. To make the most of your trip:

  • Allow plenty of time to get to (and around) the airport so you don’t feel rushed or worry about missing a flight.
  • During a long flight or car trip, get up and move around every few hours to avoid blood clots, especially if you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD), heart failure, or a history of blood clots.
  • Take it easy with your schedule, and plan time each day to rest between your activities.
  • Follow your diet as much as you can and remember that some foods, like raw foods or unpasteurized dairy products, may not be safe to eat.
  • Drink water, and go easy on alcohol or caffeinated beverages.

If you have any symptoms, don’t wait — get help right away.

To learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.