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.

Very cold weather can affect your heart by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Your heart also has to work much harder to keep your body warm.

Cold temperatures may also cause changes to your blood that can increase the risk of developing blood clots and lead to heart attack and stroke.

Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to a drop in body temperature (hypothermia) in the winter months.

Protect your health against the cold by:

  • Keeping your home warm and staying indoors. Try to keep the temperature at least 16°C-18°C. You could try using a hot water bottle if you’re cold in bed.
  • 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 when you go outside. Wearing many thin layers can help keep you warmer than a few thick layers. A lot of heat is lost from your head, so wear a hat and scarf.

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 the flu vaccine and how it can help protect you over the winter.

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.