Coping with the cold weather

Lifestyle Management 08 June 2021

At wintertime, cold weather can have an effect on our body and people with heart conditions can sometimes notice that the colder weather has an effect on how they are feeling. Cold weather makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm, so as a result your heart rate and blood pressure may increase. These changes can sometimes make your heart-related symptoms worse and can sometimes affect how heart copes with everyday things.

It is important therefore for anyone with a heart condition to stay warm and well hydrated during the winter and protect yourself against the cold weather. 

  • Keep your home warm and stay indoors when possible. Try and keep the temperature indoors as near to 18°C as possible.
  • Stay active whilst you are indoors and move around at least once per hour and avoid sitting in one place for long periods of time.
  • Having regular hot meals and drinks will provide your body with the energy it needs to keep you warm and well however large meals should be avoided.
  • Wrap up in layers of clothing, layers help to trap air between them forming a protective insulation. Heat is easily lost from your head so wear a hat and scarf when going outside.
  • Be cautious if you need to exert yourself outside during cold weather do so with caution as even walking in cold weather causes our body to work harder. Avoid shovelling snow if you have a heart condition as this activity can lead to overexertion.
  • Try not to become overheated when outside if you notice that you are sweating due to physical activity your blood vessels may dilate causing a drop in blood pressure. You would be advised to go indoors and remove your outer clothing to allow your body to cool down.
  • Besides cold temperatures, wind and rain can also steal body heat. Wind is especially dangerous as it can remove the layer of warmer air from around your body, which can cause the body to lose heat very rapidly. Similarly, dampness can also cause your body to lose heat faster than at the same temperatures in drier conditions.
  • If you feel like you may be developing a cough or cold seek advice early you can get advice from your pharmacist or GP.
  • Check to see if you are entitled to any financial assistance with making your home more energy efficient or if you think that you might be entitled to any financial help with energy bills you can contact the winter fuel payment centre on 03459 15 15 15.
  • As well as protecting your own health try and check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours during cold weather to make sure they are keeping well.

Cold temperatures can cause blood vessels and arteries to constrict. This makes the heart work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This constriction may cause chest pain and in some people an increase in blood pressure.

If you have a heart condition it is important to listen to your body and to contact your GP or out of hours service if you need advice. If you are unwell and concerned you would be advised to contact 999 in an emergency.

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