Vacationing After a Cardiac Event - Use Common Sense and Planning
by Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
"Gene came into the office to do his estate plan following a heart attack and a brief hospitalization," said professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III. "He was shocked that this happened to him, given that he took a daily jog along the cliff walk in Newport and spent time at the gym working out with weights three days a week. He told me all his blood work was good before the event, and he always tried to follow a decent diet. He said that the only thing he could attribute this to was stress, so he decided to pack things up and take a long vacation in Montana."
"Gene is like most of us, looking for answers after a major health emergency. We tend to impulsively find ways to make positive changes, sometimes without adequately considering the consequences of those actions. The truth is, even positive behaviors can have detrimental outcomes if we don't consider our choices."
Attorney Connelly is correct. Although taking a vacation may be an excellent way to destress after suffering a health emergency, some essential things must be considered before embarking on such a journey, and according to the American Heart Association (AHA), it may take more planning than you think.
Consider Your Health
"We all know that heart health and dealing with heart issues today is much different than the approach taken just a few decades ago," said Attorney Connelly. "Having heart disease and even bypass surgery doesn't mean life stops. The AHA suggests that travel plans should be discussed with the person's healthcare providers. If there was recent surgery or any conditions which are not controlled, it might make sense to postpone any travel plans until the condition stabilizes.
Safe Plane Travel
"Again, there was a time when individuals with heart disease and other medical conditions were advised not to fly," Attorney Connelly said. "But if the condition is stable, flying may be safe. But there is a caveat to this, according to the AHA. Prolonged time in an airplane can affect the cardiovascular system. For instance, altitude and air pressure changes can affect blood pressure, which in turn affects the heart. And lengthy time spent on a plane and the low humidity atmosphere can lead to dehydration." Being immobile for lengthy periods also increases the risk of blood clots forming, so standing up and walking is advised.
The AHA also suggests that those who had a recent heart attack wait at least two weeks before taking a plane flight, and those with heart failure may need to "avoid exertion before the flight, skip in-flight food because of the high sodium content, increase hydration and consider the use of supplemental oxygen."
"Medication is one of the most important considerations for anyone traveling by any mode of transportation," stated Attorney Connelly. "Always pack your medications with enough for the trip and get any refills that may be needed ahead of time. Although some medical plans may limit a refill before it's time, speak with the pharmacist about ways to work around this requirement. Also, remember that traveling across the country may mean a time change, so program your phone to take the meds on time."
Watch that Diet
"All of us tend to eat a bit unhealthy when traveling for several reasons," pointed out Attorney Connelly. "Who doesn't want to experience the local foods? That's part of the experience. And if you're traveling by car, it's very easy to stop at fast food restaurants just off the highway and jump back on it again to save time." The AHA suggests that those who have had a recent heart attack pack healthy food to take along rather than making those fast-food stops.
Know Where to Find Care
"Even the best planning around food and medications cannot guarantee that an emergency will not occur," said Attorney Connelly. "So, make sure you know where the hospitals and walk-in centers are and what your insurance will cover when you are out of the network. By speaking with the insurance provider, should healthcare be needed, you will know who to call and how to seek approval when out of network. If you travel out of the country, plans must also be made around this type of trip. In most cases, Medicare will not cover care outside the United States."
Planning with Others
"How many times have we read horror stories about people traveling to remote areas of the country and going missing for whatever reason, be it a car accident or foul play," stated Attorney Connelly. "Although foul play is infrequent, it is important to ensure that family members or friends know your itinerary and how to contact you. I know that the whole point of travel is to escape from your everyday rat race, but you are still emotionally attached to others who care about you and worry if you do not stay in touch."
"If you are traveling with friends, make sure they are aware of any health issues you may have and your healthcare providers at home. If something were to happen, they would be able to supply this information to the local providers and make getting the needed care much quicker."
A bit of planning and common-sense choices can make a vacation following a significant health issue a safe and renewing event.