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Making holiday travel manageable for those with chronic health issues

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023   

Holiday stress is a concern for most people, but when you mix in travel plans and chronic health issues, those worries might be elevated.

A Minnesota expert said now is the time to ensure a safe and healthy trip this season.

Dr. Mary Boylan, cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, said whether you're flying to a warmer destination or driving a few hours to a relative's house, preparation is vital for those with a chronic health condition like heart disease or being at risk of stroke.

To start, she recommended checking in with your doctor to find out if you are healthy enough to travel. If so, getting the logistics down should be the next priority.

"It's really easy to think, 'Oh, I'm just gonna fly here, fly there,' and forget about the details," Boylan pointed out. "If we can take those actual itinerary items off the table and have arranged to have a cart, if we need a cart, to get us to our gate that's a really good step."

Safely transporting medical devices, such as portable oxygen machines, is another priority. Boylan recommended checking with transportation agencies and companies about their policies for storing and screening them. Having enough medication is important, too. And if you are traveling to another time zone, experts suggest talking with your doctor about adjusting your medication schedule.

Boylan also is president of the American Heart Association's Midwest region Board of Directors. She noted when you get to your destination, having fun is the goal but don't feel like you have to go beyond your comfort zone.

"And we should really build in downtime," Boylan advised. "It is a very, very good thing to -- in the middle of the day or before the end of the evening -- just settle down, have a little time for peace."

She added it can help to keep blood pressure in check amid all the travel and activities you are trying to squeeze in. Other tips include locating nearby health facilities during your trip, and for long flights, wearing compression socks to prevent blood clots.

Disclosure: The American Heart Association of Minnesota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, and Smoking Prevention. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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