DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Heart Disease

Travelers with known heart disease should consult their cardiologist before deciding to travel. Shortness of breath; dizziness; pain in the chest, arm or jaw; and gastrointestinal upset are among the symptoms that warrant investigation regarding a possible cardiac cause. It is also of note that sleep apnea, a concern for some individuals with heart disease, may be exacerbated by certain over-the-counter medications often used to treat travel ailments.Travel may adversely affect individuals who have forms of heart disease that reduce their capacity for exercise and their ability to handle stress. There are numerous forms of heart disease, including congenital (present since birth) or acquired structural abnormalities, infectious or inflammatory conditions, ischemic heart disorders (which restrict the supply of blood to various parts of the body), and serious rhythm abnormalities; all of these can affect the heart's ability to pump blood through the circulatory system and to oxygenate the body's tissues and can raise the risk of a heart attack. Just carrying your luggage at a brisk pace through a large airport may provoke a heart attack.

Travelers with known heart disease should consult their cardiologist before deciding to travel. Shortness of breath; dizziness; pain in the chest, arm or jaw; and gastrointestinal upset are among the symptoms that warrant investigation regarding a possible cardiac cause. So even if you've never been diagnosed with heart disease but suffer from any of those symptoms, it is worth seeing your doctor before setting off on a trip. Certain diagnostic tests may be ordered to see if you do indeed have a cardiac disorder. A remote location, or even a city far from home, is not the time to discover an insidious blockage of your coronary arteries. If your doctor does detect a cardiac condition, any appropriate medications should be prescribed, adjusted and optimized many weeks before you leave home. Also, be sure to bring more than adequate amounts of any prescription medications with you, in case of travel delays. And anyone with an implanted pacemaker should have the device tested before departure.

It is also of note that sleep apnea, a concern for some individuals with heart disease, may be exacerbated by certain over-the-counter medications often used to treat travel ailments. Be sure to discuss with your physician any medications you plan to use or might possibly use. Also, travel to high altitudes may be inadvisable for individuals with sleep apnea so severe that it requires the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. And if you do plan to travel with a CPAP machine, especially to a high-altitude location, check in with your respiratory technician before you leave home to make sure that your machine will function properly at reduced atmospheric pressure and to learn how to make any adjustments that may be needed.


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