How to holiday healthily

Family playing on a beach

If you're heading off on holiday, or thinking about planning your next holiday, don't miss our handy tips to ensure health problems don’t blight your holiday.

How soon after a heart attack can I go on holiday?

The time it takes to recover varies from person to person, so you should ask your GP or heart specialist for advice on when you are well enough to go. If your heart condition is stable, then a holiday can be a great way to rest and relax. However, you should think about staying in accommodation that is easily accessible and avoiding destinations that are too hilly.

I have high blood pressure. Is it safe for me to fly?

As long as it is well controlled, it is generally safe to fly if you have high blood pressure. If you are taking medication, remember to keep a reasonable supply in your hand luggage in case your luggage is delayed. Ask your airline for its guidelines on carrying medication, as you may have to pack the rest in your checked luggage. If your blood pressure is unstable or very high, speak to your doctor before making any travel plans.

Will I be able to walk through the airport scanners with my pacemaker?

In the UK, a hand-held device is usually used. But in other countries, you may be asked to walk through a security system.

Most modern pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are shielded against outside interference, so this shouldn’t cause a problem. However, it’s important to tell airport staff that you have one fitted and to take your device identification card. If you are asked to pass through the scanners, walk at a normal pace and don’t linger. And don’t worry if the alarm goes off, as the metal casing of your device may trigger it.

I have so many different pills to take. What happens if I run out?

Making sure you have plenty of medication for your holiday is easy with a bit of careful planning. Ask your GP to write a prescription that will last through your holiday, allowing for a couple of extra days’ worth to cover any delays.

It’s a good idea to make a list of your medication – including the brand and generic names – to keep in your wallet, in case your luggage is mislaid. If your medication needs to be refrigerated, ask your pharmacist how to keep it cool while you’re on the move.

Is it okay to go to hot countries if I have a heart condition?

You can go to hot countries, but you should take extra care in extreme temperatures, as this can put added strain on your heart. If you are somewhere hot, keep hydrated and try to sit in the shade between 11am and 3pm, when the sun’s rays are at their most powerful.

It’s easy not to notice the strength of the sun when there’s a sea breeze blowing, so remember to wear a hat and suncream at all times. If you can, adjust your body clock so you can enjoy a siesta in the afternoon and stay up a bit later in the cooler hours. It works for the locals!

I’d like to go on a walking holiday. Is it safe for me to go up into the mountains?

Gentle walking is a great way to get back into exercise after a heart event, but if you’ve recently recovered from a heart attack or heart surgery, you should avoid travelling to high altitudes. The higher you go above sea level, the less oxygen there is in the air, which can cause extreme breathlessness or angina. Try to stick to destinations that are lower than 2,000 metres to reduce this risk, and always get advice from your GP if you are thinking of going higher. And remember, if you are planning to go with a walking group, go at your own pace.

Peace of mind

Holiday bags We know how difficult it can be to get travel insurance when you have a heart condition, but it is crucial that you are properly covered before you go abroad. Here are some useful pointers to remember:

Declare all your past and present health conditions when applying for cover, as making a mistake or forgetting to include something on the form could result in a claim being refused.

Talk to your GP before buying insurance, as he or she will be able to help you answer any difficult medical questions.

Using feedback from people with heart conditions, we have compiled a list of companies that may offer insurance to heart patients. You can order it by calling 0870 600 6566.

The Association of British Insurers may be able to help if you’re struggling to find travel insurance.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can entitle UK citizens to free or reduced-cost medical treatment when travelling in Europe. However, it does not replace travel insurance.

Find out more

For more guidance on how to enjoy a healthy holiday, call the Heart Matters Helpline on 0300 330 3300. We’d also love to hear your travel tips. You can share them on our online community. You can also read more about insurance when you have a heart condition.

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