Can I sunbathe if I have heart failure?
BHF Senior Cardiac nurse Philippa Hobson says:
It’s usually fine to sunbathe if you have heart failure or other heart conditions, but everyone is different, so it’s important to check with your GP or specialist to be safe.
The good news is that there may be a positive side to catching the sun’s rays. You still need to take your medication and be as active as you can, but some studies have shown that exposure to the sun can help to reduce blood pressure and therefore the strain on your heart.
That’s why we’ve funded Dr Richard Weller at the University of Edinburgh, who is running a trial to see if daily treatment with UVA rays could help people with high blood pressure.
Despite this, it’s not a good idea to expose yourself to too much sun. Use sunscreen with a factor of at least 15 (preferably higher) and avoid the hottest time of the day – between midday and 3pm. Take time to sit in the shade to allow your body to keep cool and try to avoid getting dehydrated, as this can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea and confusion.
Many people with heart failure take diuretic medication (‘water tablets’). If this applies to you, your GP or specialist may have instructed you to only drink a certain amount each day, so talk to them about whether this should change in hot weather.
Some medication may also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, including diuretics, diltiazem and especially amiodarone. Read the information provided with your medication and seek advice from your pharmacist or GP.
As well as keeping hydrated, remember that fresh fruit can be a refreshing snack, which also contains vitamins and minerals you lose when sweating.
Meet the expert
Philippa Hobson is a Senior Cardiac nurse with 31 years' experience. Her background is in cardiac rehab, coronary care and cardiac surgery.