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Travel with high cholesterol: what you need to know

Although it can be a largely hidden condition, high cholesterol is very common. The UK’s cholesterol charity, Heart UK, states that six out of every 10 people in the country have raised or abnormal blood cholesterol levels. However, as there are no obvious signs or symptoms of the condition many will have no idea they have it.

Why then, is it necessary to have specialist travel insurance that covers high cholesterol? Do you really need to tell your travel insurance provider if you have no symptoms, and what if you don’t even know you have high cholesterol in the first place?

We’ve gathered everything you need to know, including how you can be aware of your own cholesterol levels and how best to travel if you do have the condition.

What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a naturally-occurring, fatty substance we need to stay healthy. It is produced by the liver and makes its way around the body in our bloodstream, although some of what the body needs comes from what we eat.

Cholesterol levels are classed as high when there is too much ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood, as it may stick to the walls of the blood vessels and build up to restrict blood flow. On the other hand, ‘good’ cholesterol helps to take bad cholesterol back to the liver to be broken down and passed from the body. Generally, a healthy cholesterol level is considered to be a total cholesterol (TC) level of less than 5 millimoles per litre (mmol/L), and anything over this would be deemed a high cholesterol level.

High cholesterol is strongly linked to a higher risk of many heart and circulatory conditions, including heart attack and stroke, so it’s very important to know if your levels are high.

Elevated Cholesterol Risk Factors

There are many risk factors for having high cholesterol, including:

  • Advancing age
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Eating too much saturated fat
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Having another medical condition, such as type 2 diabetes or underactive thyroid
  • Having an immediate family member with high cholesterol

Some people can inherit high cholesterol levels from birth – a condition known as familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH).

Thankfully, diagnosing high cholesterol is quick and easy. If you think you may be at risk, your doctor will be able to arrange for you to have a simple blood test, which will reveal your cholesterol levels. Heart UK has more information on cholesterol tests and understanding your test results.

Why do I need travel insurance for high cholesterol?

As we’ve mentioned, having high cholesterol greatly increases your risk of developing a heart or circulatory condition. If you were to suffer a heart attack or a stroke while away on holiday, having travel insurance that covers high cholesterol would mean that you not only would receive the emergency care that you need, but that you wouldn’t need to worry about the cost. Overseas emergency medical care can be particularly expensive, with bills often running into the thousands, so travel insurance for any pre-existing conditions you have, even those without symptoms, is the best way to protect yourself.

For a specialist travel insurance quote for high cholesterol, simply apply online or call us on 0800 170 7704 (lines open Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm, excluding Bank Holidays).

Of course, you cannot let your travel insurance provider know you have high cholesterol if you don’t know yourself. Be sure about your cholesterol levels by arranging a cholesterol test through your GP.

How best to travel with high cholesterol

A holiday is a welcome break from everyday life, and with a little forward planning, you can make sure that it doesn’t come at the expense of your health. Make sure that your doctor gives the OK for you to travel and there should be no reason why having high cholesterol should stop you enjoying your time away. If you will be away from home for several weeks or months you may need an extra supply of medication, so your doctor will be able to help you with this too. It’s also a good idea to check the status of any medicines you take for high cholesterol against the list of restricted medications of the country you will be visiting. Some countries have strict laws regarding medicines that may be commonly prescribed in the UK, so it’s always best to double-check.

If you will be travelling by air, remember to get up and move around the cabin often. Keep active even when in your seat by doing regular stretching exercises. You could even bring your own food for the flight to help you avoid on-board snacks, which may be salty and high in fat.

When it comes to enjoying food during your stay, of course you’ll want to try the local cuisine, but try to keep everything in moderation. Just like you would do normally, avoid fast food and anything high in salt and fat. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be plentiful and fantastic quality in many popular holiday destinations, so a holiday can be a wonderful opportunity to eat well.

Ensuring you are eating enough fibre, including plenty of fruit and vegetables, is an effective way of reducing cholesterol. If you’re worried that being away from home may make it difficult to ensure you eat enough fibre, think about taking a fibre supplement with you.

Finally, while it’s important to relax during your holiday, remember that staying active will benefit your health. Taking regular swims, hitting the tennis court or just exploring your resort on foot can all help to keep your cholesterol levels under control.

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