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Travel That’s Smart for Your Heart

Planning ahead makes all the difference when sticking to healthy habits on the road.

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(Photo: Dulin / RooM / Getty Images)

The good news for vacationers and business road warriors alike is that travel can be good for your heart. Active vacations such as skiing or visiting a national park are good exercise, and a break from routine can relieve stress.

On the flip side, travel can make it tough to stick to heart-healthy habits. But Dr. David A. Rawitscher, medical director of the Congestive Heart Failure Center at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, says you can do it if you plan ahead.

Anticipate challenges such as traffic, parking, flight delays and lost luggage. “Give yourself a little bit of extra time when you travel,” said Rawitscher, adding that stress is hard on the heart.

Make the healthiest food choices you can – even if that means a fast-food chicken sandwich instead of a burger and fries. If you decide to indulge, do it selectively – for instance, a glass of wine and a great meal at a Paris bistro. “If you’re going to cheat, make it worth it,” Rawitscher said. “Don’t stop in at the Paris McDonald’s.”

If you’re jetlagged and off your normal schedule, don’t feel obligated to eat just because it’s mealtime. If you’re dining with friends, order an appetizer or snack instead of a full meal.

Get a little exercise each day. You might not be able to stick to your full workout routine, but you can probably fit in a brisk walk or a brief stop at the hotel gym.

Having a general daily schedule in mind – one that includes time for adequate sleep – will make this easier, because you’ll get up on time. “It will give you that little bit of extra time to try to take that 15-minute walk and find something healthier for breakfast,” Rawitscher said. If you’ve slept in and are running late, you’re less likely to exercise and more likely to reach for unhealthy foods.

If you do slip up, don’t stress. Just continue doing the best you can to be active and make healthier food choices. As with all things, moderation is key. “Pick a realistic balance between enjoying the experience and being healthy,” said Rawitscher.

Read more articles about travel-related health topics. AAA.com/LiveWell

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