Wise up to winter

Cold weather

Everybody recognises the signs of winter: fallen leaves, darker evenings, and the cold outside. But do you know how cold can affect your heart health?

As winter draws in, it’s important to be aware of the health risks presented by the cold weather and what you can do to keep your heart healthy. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to a drop in body temperature (hypothermia) in the winter months.

Cold weather can affect your health by:

  • Making you more vulnerable to illnesses and worsening existing health problems. 
  • Increasing your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Making your heart work much harder to keep your body warm. 
  • Causing changes to your blood that can increase the risk of developing blood clots and lead to heart attack and stroke.

Protect your health against the cold by:

  • Keeping your home warm and staying indoors. Keep the temperature at least 18°C (65°F) and use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket to keep warm in bed.
  • Staying active indoors to help keep you warm. Move around at least once an hour and avoid sitting still for long periods. 
  • Having regular hot meals and drinks to give your body the energy it needs to keep you warm. 
  • Wrapping up warm in layers of clothing. Wearing a few thin layers can help keep you warmer than one thick layer. A lot of heat is lost from your head, so wear a hat and scarf when going outside.
  • Learning how to make your home more energy efficient and making sure you’re receiving any financial help that you’re entitled to by contacting the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 03459 15 15 15.
  • If you feel like you’re coming down with a cough or a cold, don’t wait for it to get worse. Get advice from your GP or pharmacist.

The NHS also has tips and advice on winter health and how to stay healthy and well during the cold months.

Cold and flu

Take steps to protect yourself by wrapping up warm

At this time of year, the chance of catching the flu (seasonal influenza) also increases. As well as facing the same symptoms as a common cold, flu sufferers can also get muscle aches and pain, a fever, a headache and a cough. 

The flu can be more serious for people with heart conditions as it makes your heart work much harder, so we recommended you talk to your GP or practice nurse about having a flu vaccine. It’s free if you’re aged 65 or older or if you have a long term health condition, such as a heart problem. 

If you’re aged 65 or over, you’re also eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine, which helps to protect you from diseases such as pneumonia. 

As well as protecting your own health, always remember to keep an eye on elderly and vulnerable friends, family and neighbours during cold snaps. Make sure that you can recognise the symptoms and signs of a heart attack and phone 999 for an ambulance immediately if you’re worried.