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Managing Vacation Stress for Anyone with a Health Condition

Few things in life can be as fun and unforgettable as a terrific vacation. You know the kind... where you do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it. For some, basking in the sun and listening to the gentle sounds of waves licking the shore is the perfect vacation scenario. Others yearn to spend time in the shadow of majestic mountain peaks, beside clear, cold streams full of fish. Some people, however, would simply opt for uninterrupted solitude with time to read a good book, or pursue a favorite hobby.

Whatever kind of vacation you choose, it should provide rest and relaxation, new experiences and entertainment. A vacation should not be a cause of stress and anxiety -- especially for anyone with a health condition.

For people who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or other medical concerns, vacations will require a little more planning. Certainly, you can have fun, there are just more factors to consider before leaving home. While we may have been drawn to the sun when we were younger, for example, soaring temperatures and too much direct sunlight on aging skin can be a dangerous combination.

Here are suggestions to help those of us with health concerns enjoy our leisure time and stay healthy, too:

1. Don't forget the stressful realities of travel during your planning. Ask yourself if you are ready for things like flight delays, missed connections, lost luggage, car breakdowns, etc., etc. If you cannot honestly answer, "Yes," to that question, perhaps it would be better to rethink your plans or to postpone your trip until you are up to it.

Be realistic about the baggage you can manage. Be sensible in deciding what you simply must take with you and what you can just as easily leave at home. Use a cart or get assistance whenever it is necessary to move your suitcases; there is nothing to be gained in struggling with them unnecessarily, and an injury which might result could ruin your vacation altogether.

2. An exam by your doctor will help determine your readiness for travel. When outlining your vacation plans for your doctor, be honest about what you plan to do. If you plan to climb a mountain or go on long hikes in the woods, let your doctor know so that he can evaluate -- realistically -- your ability to accomplish what might be required of you.

One of the most important considerations for anyone with a medical condition is whether or not there will be competent medical personnel and facilities available at your destination. Ask your doctor if he knows any medical specialists where you are going. Take a complete set of your medical records with you -- two copies, if possible; one in your luggage, and one to carry with you at all times. And include your prescription records and insurance information in the packet, as well. For those with pacemakers, always carry your pacemaker emergency card that outlines the type of equipment and date of implantation.

DO NOT FORGET YOUR MEDICATIONS, and take them as prescribed.

3. Build up your strength before you leave and know your limitations. Make sure that you won't have to push yourself beyond reasonable endurance levels. Don't run yourself ragged with last minute detains before you leave town; save your energy for having fun.

4. Advise your travel agent of any special health problems and requirements you may have so that appropriate arrangements can be made for you. If you would feel more comfortable, for example, having a wheelchair meet your flight to expedite getting to the next gate, by all means do so. Your travel agent can also request special meals for you on airplanes and cruise ships that will allow you to stay within any dietary limitations. You don't have to abandon heart healthy eating habits just because you are on vacation.

Since sitting for an extended period of time on an airplane, combined with the plane's dry air and lower oxygen levels, can increase the risk of developing blood clots in legs, pelvis or arms requesting an aisle seat is a good idea. This makes it easier for you to stretch your legs, access the restroom when needed and get up to walk around regularly. (Blood clots can be of special concern if someone is obese, pregnant, suffers from large vericose veins, a heart condition, has had major surgery recently or is using contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.)

5. Discuss your travel plans your health insurance provider. For some, travel insurance may be a good idea to cover such things as trip-cancellation or interuption and emergency medical expenses.

Remind yourself -- frequently, if necessary -- that the purpose of your vacation is to relax and have fun. If you use good common sense, follow your doctor's recommendations, and take the necessary precautions your heart condition won't get in the way at all.

The dictionary definition of vacation is "a period of rest." Achieving this objective could be exactly what the doctor ordered!

Sources: Have a Great Vacation... But Don't Over Do It!

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