Winter is here and for many that means freezing temperatures and less-than-ideal weather. But no matter where you live, this time of year can present some challenges to those with heart failure. Shorter days, low temps, flu season and more can affect our physical and mental health. Stay healthy and safe this year with these four winter-proof tips.
Dress for the season
Winter calls for warmer clothing, so break out those sweaters and coats. Here are some winter wardrobe tips to keep in mind:
- Layer up: While bulky, thicker clothing will keep you warm, remember to dress in layers. This allows you to adjust to changing temps—e.g., going from outside to inside. Layers help keep you from overheating or getting too cold.
- Avoid too-tight clothing: If your body tends to “hold onto water,” which leads to swelling, avoid tight clothing that irritates the skin or causes your skin to break down. Thermal bottoms or thick socks may be okay as long as they’re not too tight.
- Cover your skin: This may sound obvious, but cold air is dry, and with wind this can lead to chapped, red skin. When it is especially chilly or windy, wear a scarf, hat and gloves to cover your exposed skin.
Stock up on medicine, food and other needs
To be safe, always try to keep a backup of your medications, water and food. This is especially true in the winter. Snow or heavy storms can shut down roads, making it hard to refill these important items. If you rely on oxygen or have other medical needs, have a backup on hand just in case.
When the temps dip, many of us end up spending more time indoors. This often means getting less exercise. Staying active is important for everyone, especially when you have heart failure. Find activities that you can do indoors when the weather is harsh. Getting on an exercise bike, walking on a treadmill, or even doing bodyweight exercises are all easy to do from the comfort of your home. For some, doing chores around the house will help keep you active.
But be aware that it can be easy to overdo it in the winter. Shoveling or walking through snow mixed with cold temps can really take it out of you. Monitor your symptoms closely. If you ever find yourself getting dizzy or have worsening shortness of breath or chest pain, sit down and rest. Tell your doctor if this is new or is getting worse. Your doctor can help you find the activities that are right for you.
Lean on your support system
With shorter days and colder temps, it is tempting to want to stay inside. For some, being exposed to less sun can cause a shift in mood. Pay attention to how you are feeling or acting. Are you feeling low or find yourself feeling sad more than usual? Are you avoiding seeing friends or family?
When you have heart failure, a support system is crucial. In the winter, do your best to lean on and stay in touch with your loved ones. If you know you tend to withdraw during the winter, let them know ahead of time. This way they will know to check on you.