Man and his doctor discussing winter.

Top tips for looking after your heart this winter

During the winter months, cold weather can put extra strain on our hearts, especially for people with heart failure.[1] Low temperatures can cause blood vessels to narrow, restricting the flow of blood around the body and so reducing the amount of oxygen reaching the heart.[1] This means the heart needs to work harder to continue pumping enough blood and oxygen around the body.[2]

The risk of people with heart failure being hospitalized increases over the winter period, so it is important to be aware of potential risks to your heart health and take precautions to make sure you look after yourself and, most importantly, your heart this winter.[3],[4]

There are lots of simple but effective things you can do to help stay well:

  • Making sure you follow a healthy and balanced diet, including lots of hot meals and drinks, can help you to stay well-nourished and give your heart the extra energy it needs for the cold months.[5]
  • It’s important to stay active to maintain fitness levels and if heading outside, be sure to wrap up warm with several thin layers.[2]
  • When you’re at home, keep the house well-heated by letting natural sunlight in, have the heating on at least 18oC (or 64oF) and minimize draughts around the windows and doors.[6]
  • For the colder evenings, you may find a hot water bottle or electric blanket useful.[6]

For people with heart failure, a cold or flu can be a serious illness and some people with the condition may be eligible for a flu vaccination.[2] It’s important to be aware of the symptoms, including having a fever, runny or stuffy nose, feeling tired and vomiting and diarrhea, so you can spot them quickly and visit your doctor for advice.[7]

 

Take a look at the infographic below for more on the symptoms of cold and flu and tips on keeping well over winter, or download it below.

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Looking after your heart this winter infographic.

 

Following these simple and easy-to-follow tips can help you to maintain your heart health and spot the early signs of being unwell.
Maybe you have some tips of your own for staying healthy this winter? Why not share these with us on social media? 

 

 

1) UPMC. How Cold Weather Affects Your Heart and Circulatory System. Available here: http://share.upmc.com/2014/10/cold-weather-effects-heart-circulatory-system/. Accessed November 2016.
2) British Heart Foundation. Living with a heart condition. Cold weather. Available here: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/living-with-a-heart-condition/cold-weather. Accessed November 2016.
3) Acharya D, Uyeki TM. ‘The PARADIGM of Influenza Vaccination in Heart Failure Patients*.’JCHF. 2016;4(2):159-161. doi:10.1016/j.jchf.2015.12.008.
4) Health Communities. More about cold weather & your heart. Available here: http://www.healthcommunities.com/heart-attack/cold-weather-heart-risk_jhmwp.shtml. Accessed November 2016.
5) WebMD. Diet and heart failure. Available here: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/dietary-guidelines-heart-failure. Accessed November 2016.
6) NHS Choices. Keep warm, keep well. Available here: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/KeepWarmKeepWell.aspx. Accessed November 2016.
7) CDC. Flu symptoms & complications. Available here: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.htm. Accessed November 2016.