Dr. Gladys Velarde
(Photo/University of Florida-Jacksonville)

As the holiday season approaches, many will be planning to visit family and friends, but it can come with unique challenges for those with chronic health conditions. Preparation is imperative.

The American Heart Association, recommends that a little pre-travel preparation can turn potential issues into a successful vacation for those with chronic health conditions like heart disease and stroke.

“Many people will be traveling to spend time with family and friends. For some that just means throwing a few essentials into a backpack and hitting the roads or airways,” said Gladys Velarde, M.D., FAHA, a national volunteer with the American Heart Association and a professor of medicine at the University of Florida in Jacksonville. “It’s not always that simple for people who have chronic health conditions that require multiple medications or special medical equipment. There are also considerations for how to maintain your health and not put yourself at increased risk.”

Dr. Velarde states that if somebody has experienced a heart attack or stroke they’re not necessarily banned from traveling. Each situation is specific, it’s a wide spectrum. It is critically important that each person talks to their physician that knows their particular circumstance.

Researching the area you will be traveling is also important.

Travelers must be aware of their destination’s climate; for cold environments, prepare suitable clothing, and in warm climates, limit activities to avoid dehydration.

Travelers living with a chronic condition, should avoid remote areas, not due to inherent danger but because of limited proximity to medical facilities or providers.

“High altitude is one specific recommendation that is important to know for patients with cardiac conditions because whatever you were able to do at sea level, it may cause you two or three times more effort because you will be affected by less oxygen so those things are really important to know when traveling,” Velarde said.

Travel, by nature, introduces stress, which is detrimental to health.

Dr. Velarde suggests incorporating relaxation methods like reading or listening to music, along with practices such as deep breathing or meditation, not only boosts the well-being of individuals, including those with chronic conditions, but also cultivates a heightened sense of safety and enjoyment throughout the journey.

Getting stuck in an airport during flight delays can be stressful, but in many U.S. airports, you can turn a layover into a lifesaving experience. Look for specially marked kiosks in some cities where you can learn the two easy steps of Hands-Only-CPR through an interactive teaching module.

“Knowing this technique and getting CPR training is a wonderful way to help. If you see someone in need you can first call 9-1-1. Then find someone or even yourself if you know CPR because you can buy precious time while waiting for help to arrive,” Dr Velarde said.

Go to The American Heart Association website: for information concerning CPR training and tips on travel after a heart attack or stroke.

“Every individual’s condition is unique, and you’ll want to tailor your travel plans to your specific needs,” Velarde said. “Stay well hydrated, don’t overindulge in food or drink, know your physical activity limits, pace yourself and rest as often as you need.”