Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: No sailing away from heart disease

Taking a cruise offers a chance to explore and relax, leaving behind the stress and hassles of daily life. Too bad you can't leave heart trouble at home as well — heart attack, stroke, worsening heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and other cardiovascular problems occasionally crop up among cruise ship passengers. They aren't common. But given that 10 million people, many of them over age 65, take cruises each year, cardiac trouble is bound to happen.

Some of these incidents would have happened to the person even if he or she had not taken the cruise and stayed at home. Others are sparked by eating or drinking too much on board, skipping medications, or overexertion.

If you are planning a cruise and have any health concerns, check with the cruise line about shipboard medical care. Ask if the company meets guidelines that the American College of Emergency Physicians set up for the International Council of Cruise Lines.

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