10 Healthy Tips for Travelers With High Cholesterol
We all look forward to vacations — a time to relax, have fun, visit new places, and "get away from it all." Travel often means resort-style breakfasts, buffet dinners, cocktails, and other indulgences — enjoyable for sure, but individuals with high cholesterol may need to consider their health along with their travel plans.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "about 38% of American adults have high cholesterol (total blood cholesterol equal or greater than 200 mg/dL)." High cholesterol levels do not cause symptoms, but they can put individuals at risk for heart disease and strokes. CDC data also indicates that about 55% of these adults are currently taking medication to help manage cholesterol.
Blood cholesterol, a waxy substance made by the liver, is essential for a variety of body functions. Since the liver generally makes a sufficient amount of cholesterol, medical experts recommend limiting dietary cholesterol such as is found in meat, eggs, dairy products, poultry, and seafood. Other lifestyle factors such as obesity, lack of activity, blood pressure, and heredity can influence cholesterol levels.
Often, individuals with high cholesterol establish a routine of daily medication, exercise, and diet to manage their cholesterol. Travel can disrupt the routine with time changes, restaurant dining, stress, less sleep, and perhaps more alcohol than usual. In addition, it may be inconvenient to fit exercise into the travel schedule.
Planning and conscious decisions before a trip can get some of those challenges under control, preventing an increase in cholesterol levels that could potentially lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Travel + Leisure spoke to Dr. Rajagopal Manda, lead naturopathy counselor at YO1 Health Resort in Monticello, New York, set on 1,310 acres in the Catskill Mountains. The luxury destination offers guests a variety of wellness experiences designed to detox, revitalize, and promote optimal health and wellbeing. One of the health resort's programs is designed to manage high cholesterol and hypertension.
Dr. Manda advises travelers to continue regular exercise for an hour daily, whether walking, jogging, or yoga. As far as diet, Manda suggests that travelers "be on a vegetarian diet which is easily digestible, absorbable, and eliminable." He also comments that "fruits, salads, and whole grain foods, complex carbohydrates, are low in fat, low in calories, and rich in fiber, which are all helpful in reducing cholesterol."
Manda, who provides initial and ongoing consultation to YO1's guests based on their health history and wellness goals, also reminds travelers to "drink at least two liters of water a day." Regular hydration, he explains, keeps the blood viscosity thin and reduces heart risk. He also suggests that travelers avoid excess salt and fat in snacks.
We have summarized this advice along with a few additional ideas from other sources for staying healthy while traveling.
- Pack medications in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost during your trip. You'll also have access to it in the event of a flight delay or cancellation.
- Take your prescription details, doctors' numbers, and pharmacy information in the event you need to replace any medications during the trip. If possible, keep the medications in their original packaging. Also, pack some extras to cover yourself if any meds get lost or in the event your trip gets extended.
- Keep track of the time in your home area if you're traveling to a different time zone, and if possible, stay close to your usual schedule. If you forget to take your medication, follow your prescription's instructions regarding whether to just skip the dose or resume as usual.
- Be sure to have healthy snacks for flights and for when you arrive at your destination. That will help you avoid chips, candy, and high fat snacks found in airport shops, on flights, and in hotel minibars. Carry water, and be sure to stay hydrated.
- For road trips, pack a cooler with fruit, water, and low fat snacks like hummus and pita, carrots, and celery. Stop often to stretch and have a snack — get some movement in and avoid getting hungry and heading for fast food.
- Travel usually means dining in restaurants. If possible, check the menu before going out to select meals that are lower in fat and higher in fiber. Avoid fried foods, desserts, and alcoholic beverages. Don't hesitate to ask for smaller portions or healthier substitutions, for example, a salad instead of french fries.
- When possible, opt for accommodations with at least basic kitchen facilities so you can keep some fresh fruits and vegetables on hand or even prepare at least a meal or two. Cereal and fruit for breakfast, fresh juices, and whole grain breads might keep you away from the Eggs Benedict, ham, bacon, and sausage on the restaurant's breakfast menu.
- On long flights, choose an aisle seat so you're free to get up and walk around every hour or so to avoid deep vein thrombosis (blood clots). In your seat, stretch and move periodically. Wear compression socks which also help to avoid blood clots. Many brands offer a variety of compression levels, lengths, shoe sizes, and calf sizes for comfort and ease in wearing.
- Often, travel causes stress, so be on time, know where you're going, and allow some extra minutes to get to the airport or to appointments. According to Dr. Manda, stress increases LDL (bad cholesterol), while relaxation increases HDL (good cholesterol) levels in the blood.
- Take comfortable shoes for a morning or after dinner walk. Take advantage of hotel pools, fitness centers, and exercise classes. For family trips, plan some activities like cycling, hiking, or a walk on the beach. Play catch, frisbee, or swim a few laps to get moving.
Naturally, vacations and even business trips should be pleasurable, and these suggestions don't have to take the joy out of travel. Savor the foods that you order, try something new, and enjoy the conversation, scenery, and surroundings as you eat and stay active. You'll feel better and you'll be healthier when you get home.