Much of the UK has been experiencing a cold snap with temperatures plummeting since the New Year, and snow and black ice covering much of the country. While it makes for a picture postcard view, the cold weather can make life considerably more difficult, if even life threatening, for the elderly, vulnerable and those who suffer with heart conditions.
This week’s blog is inspired by the great work done at the British Heart Foundation and you can read more about how the cold can affect you if you suffer from a heart condition on their website here.
Does cold weather put me at risk if I have a heart condition?
In short, cold weather can bring health and heart risks to many of us - however, the elderly and very young children do find it harder to regulate their body temperature, which puts them at a higher risk.
During the winter, when temperatures drop, our bodies have to work much harder to keep warm.That means our hearts need to jump into action to work extra hard at pumping blood around our systems to keep everything ticking over. Everything from brain function to moving, digesting food and breathing is dependent on a good, healthy blood flow through the heart.
When the body experiences cold temperatures, the blood vessels and arteries narrow, restricting blood flow and reducing oxygen to the heart. A harder working heart can then result in higher blood pressure, blood clots, heart attack or stroke.
What can I do to protect my heart?
Thankfully, no matter our age or condition, there are many ways we can stay warm and help to look after our hearts during the colder months.
There are many things you can do to stay warm and look after your heart in cold weather.
Stay Active - most of us will be spending a lot more time in our homes just now due to COVID-19 restrictions, but that’s no reason to not keep our bodies moving. If you can, make sure you take some time to get outdoors for a short walk. If you are housebound, but still mobile, make sure you regularly get up for a walk around the house. Regular movement is key to keeping the heart pumping healthily.
Wrap up warm - wear plenty of layers of clothing made from natural fibres if possible - including your socks! Three layers of thin clothing will be much better for you than one thick, ‘warm’ jumper for example as the air trapped between the layers will warm up to create a cosier feeling. And don’t forget that wearing a good pair of slippers around the house can also be a great defence against your body cooling down.
Eat regularly - have plenty of hot drinks throughout the day to give your body enough energy to keep you warm. Healthy soup, stews, casseroles and warm flavoured teas are all good choices. If you’re a slow eater and struggle to complete a meal before the food goes cold, you might find one of these keep warm dishes useful in the winter months.
Keep your house warm - if you can, pop the heating on for periods throughout the day, but especially in the early morning and evenings when temperatures are lowest. Or, use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket to keep you warm without spending money heating rooms you’re not using.
If you’d like to find if you’re eligible for support with your energy bills through the Government’s Winter Fuel Payment Scheme you can contact them here Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 03459 15 15 15.
Don’t forget that if you are concerned about any health conditions related to your heart, contact your GP immediately. You will also find very useful advise at the British Heart Foundation.
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