How to stay safe on the go

Doug Fugate loves to travel. But going places can require a lot of walking and long periods of sitting – in cars, trains, or airplanes. And that can be tricky because Fugate has peripheral artery discomfort (PAD), in which narrowed arteries prevent blood from flowing easily to his legs and arms.

Fugate, who is 58 and lives in Austin, Texas, had two femoropopliteal bypass grafts to open blocked arteries in his legs. He wants to keep these bypasses open. When traveling, Fugate makes sure to move frequently, even when he’s on a plane. “Walking is often the best medicine for PAD,” he says.


Many people with PA can travel safely, says Kurtis Kim, MD, director of the vascular lab at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. But while PAD makes walking painful, smart preparations can make your commute smoother.

Know your limits. For example, if you are going to the airport or train station, if you think you need it, ask in advance if wheelchairs or other assistance is available. Since his operation to open the blood flow to his legs, Fugate leg pain is minimal enough that he can get by in airports without a wheelchair.

Still, “sometimes running from terminal to terminal puts a lot of stress on my right foot,” he says. I’m fine if I don’t carry anything, but usually I have my laptop bag and carry-on, so the extra weight puts pressure on my PAD foot. If so, Fugate stops and shakes his foot for about 15 seconds, then continues when he feels better.

A few years ago, Fugate created a Facebook group, PAD Support Group (PAD / PVD), which today has more than 2,400 members. With so many people in the group, it has become an invaluable resource for advice on living with PAD, including travel advice.

It can help to walk a bit more before you get stuck in your plane or train seat. Fugate tries to get there sooner than he needs to, so he has time to walk slowly and rest along the way.

When you book a hotel, check if there is an elevator or ask for a lower floor. You can also request a room with accessibility features, says Fugate.

In the plane

When Fugate flies, he often tries to move his legs. It’s not always easy given the cabin space on planes, but even a simple movement like taking off your shoes and putting your feet on them can help. He also gets up to walk down the aisle every 30 minutes or so to keep his blood flowing.

Steve Hamburger, a semi-retired marketer in Westlake Village, Calif., Agrees legroom can be an issue. If you can afford it, “try to have more legroom when you fly,” he says.

Like Fugate, Hamburger gets up and roams the aisles in an effort to stay dangerous blood clots to train. He also tries to stay hydrated and avoids alcohol in the air.

In the car

Since Fugate’s PAD affects his right foot, which he uses to drive, car travel can be difficult. “My foot tends to fall asleep after several hours of driving,” he says. To prevent this, he stops every hour to go out, walk and stretch. It also helps reduce swelling in the lower legs and feet and reduces the risk of a blood clot in the veins, called deep vein thrombosis.

If he is a passenger on a long trip, he is able to move his legs and find a position that is comfortable for him.

Keep walking

Doctors recommend a regular walking program for people with MAP: over time and practice, the more you walk, the less pain it hurts. If you are planning a trip, be sure to start or continue a good walking regimen at home so that pain does not interfere with your trip.

Fugate says walking is a key ingredient for safe travel. “To help combat the negative side effects of PAD, I walk 10,000 or more steps per day and stay hydrated. When I know I’m going to travel, I make sure I have a few bottles of water in my bag, ”he says.

Fugate also plans activities that include walking. For example, he may spot a walking path that also has benches along the path for sitting and resting.

Hamburger also swears while walking. “I don’t have major problems when I travel with PAD because I try to maintain my walking regimen every day,” he says.

For the holidays, Hamburger opts for trips to the beach or to the mountains, where there are hiking or walking trails. He doesn’t let bad weather get in his way. “If that means walking the halls of a hotel when it’s raining outside, I do.”

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