Cold weather and your heart

Cold weather

Cold weather can put your health at risk, especially if you have a heart condition.

Winter weather can affect your heart and circulation, but there are things you can do to stay warm and healthy.

How does cold weather affect my heart?

During winter, it’s important to know the effects of cold weather on your body, and the risks for your heart health. Elderly people are especially vulnerable in winter months.

Cold weather makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm. Your blood vessels constrict so the heart can concentrate on pumping blood to your brain and other major organs. 

The cold can also increase the risk of developing blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

What can I do to stay warm?

There are many things you can do to stay warm and look after your heart in cold weather:

  • Keep your home warm and stay indoors as much as you can when it’s cold. You can use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket to keep warm.
  • Stay active indoors to help keep you warm. Move around regularly.
  • Having regular hot meals and drinks to give your body the energy it needs to keep you warm. A bowl of home made vegetable soup can be healthy and filling. 
  • Wrap up warm in layers of clothing. Wearing a few thin layers can help keep you warmer than one thick layer. Wear a hat, scarf and gloves when going outside in cold weather. If you suffer from angina (chest pain), wear a scarf wrapped loosely around your mouth and nose, so you breathe in warmer air. This may help to limit your symptoms if they get worse in the winter.
  • Learn how to make your home more energy efficient and make sure you receive 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, try to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Get advice from your GP or pharmacist with regard to over the counter remedies as some may not be suitable.

The NHS also has tips on how to keep healthy during cold weather, as part of its Stay Well This Winter campaign.  

Can the flu affect my heart?

Protect yourself by wrapping up warm, and consider having a flu vaccine. 

 

In the winter months, the chance of catching the flu (seasonal influenza) increases. The flu can be more serious for people with heart conditions. We have advice on how to avoid catching the flu, the flu’s symptoms, and how it can affect any medication you might be taking on the flu (seasonal influenza) page.

If you have a heart condition, we recommend you talk to your GP or practice nurse about having a flu vaccine. It’s free if you’re aged 65 or over, or if you have a long-term health condition such asasthma or diabetes.

If you’re aged 65 or over, you’re also eligible for the pneumococcal vaccine

Who is most at risk?

Elderly people and very young children find it harder to regulate their temperature. This puts them at higher risk in extreme temperatures. As well as protecting your own health, always remember to keep an eye on elderly and vulnerable friends, family and neighbours during cold snaps to make sure they’re warm and comfortable. 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.

More information and support