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Traveling with heart disease: tips to stay safe

The summer holiday season is fast approaching or has already started in some areas and the need for holidays is great after the restrictions of recent years. However, people with cardiovascular disease should pay attention to a few details when planning their vacation.

Many environmental factors can affect heart health, including altitude, heat, climate, and air quality. People with heart disease in particular should therefore inform themselves about the local conditions when they go on holiday. What to pay attention to, explains medical Dr. Magnus Baumhäkel of the German Heart Foundation.

Heart Patients Shouldn’t Give Up Vacations

According to the professional society, people with cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease (CHD), cardiac arrhythmias, valvular diseases and heart failure (heart failure) generally should not give up traveling.

However, good planning is especially important for people with heart conditions during their summer vacation.

Obtain a medical evaluation

One of the first steps, according to Dr. Baumhäkel a conversation with the attending physician to get an initial assessment of whether a trip to the desired destination is generally recommended.

Do a check-up before the holidays

A checkup should also be done four to six weeks before travel, advises Dr. Tree Hook. In this way, the stability of patients can be checked in time and the medication can be changed if necessary.

“It’s the only way to avoid the risk of overwork or error of judgment”, underlines the cardiologist. A free travel checklist for heart patients can be ordered from the Heart Foundation.

The Most Important Benchmark: Resilience

One of the most important clues in determining whether travel is advisable is personal resilience. Physical performance need not be severely limited by heart disease. The heart surgery should have taken place several weeks ago.

Take into account climatic conditions and weather changes

Heat, cold and altitude can have adverse effects on the heart, as can a different climate and changing weather. Very high temperatures, for example, increase the risk of circulatory collapse or cardiac arrhythmia.

Staying at altitudes above 2500 meters also ensures that less oxygen enters the arteries. This can put a strain on the heart muscle and, in the worst case, trigger a heart attack.

Heart patients should not choose places with extreme weather conditions as their vacation destination. “Tropical and subtropical, arctic and subarctic climates are generally not recommended for heart patients because they put too much strain on the cardiovascular system,” says Dr. Tree Hook.

According to him, it makes more sense to choose a place with climatic conditions that the body already knows. Also, heart patients should, if possible, travel in the spring and fall rather than during the hot summer months.

What is the influence of air quality on the holiday location?

Air quality affects the cardiovascular system. Air pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides can aggravate the course of coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmias and high blood pressure.

“Depending on the type of heart or circulatory disease, air pollution at the place of destination can have an adverse effect on the disease in a short period of time, in the worst case it can trigger a complication such as a heart or brain infarction or lead to a hospital stay in patients with heart failure,” warns Dr. tree hook.

It is therefore advisable for those affected to find out in advance about the air quality at the holiday destination. This is possible, for example, free of charge via the website of the World Air Quality Index project.

Strength is found in serenity

After arriving at your vacation spot, cardiac patients should rest for the first few days so that their body can get used to the local conditions. Prolonged sunbathing and strenuous activities should be avoided for the first few days.

But there’s nothing wrong with light to medium loads. Exercise, for example hiking or cycling, is even desirable in an appropriate form. Only the midday sun is to be avoided.

“Anyone who wants to swim should discuss this with the doctor in advance,” emphasizes Baumhäkel. Getting into very cold water or getting out of the water can cause circulatory problems.

Food can affect some heart medications

If the vacation destination offers a completely different diet than usual, it could impact certain heart medications. In particular, the effect of the anticoagulant Marcumar, which is often taken with artificial heart valves or atrial fibrillation, may be impaired by foods high in fat or a high proportion of vitamin K.

Who should give up a trip?

Doctors from the German Heart Foundation are advising against travel for some patients with heart disease. This applies, for example, to people with chest tightness (angina pectoris) or shortness of breath even with little exertion.

People who suffer from increased dizziness and sudden loss of consciousness as a result of cardiovascular disease are also advised not to go on vacation. (vb)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.

Author:

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek

Sources:

German Heart Foundation: Traveling with heart disease? You Should Keep This in Mind (Accessed: July 5, 2022), herzstiftung.deDeutsche Herzstiftung: Traveling with a Defibrillator and Pacemaker: Patients Should Pay Attention (Accessed: July 5, 2022), herzstiftung.deDeutsche Herzstiftung : Heat, altitude & restlessness – safe travel with heart failure (retrieved July 5, 2022), herzstiftung.de

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.

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