Surviving the Cold
Cold weather is upon the northern part of the world. The cold is arguably just as taxing on heart failure as hot weather is, just in a different way. Most of us live in an area that will see some snow and will have days that never get above freezing. With heart failure, you have to take it a little easier, just like in the summer. You don’t have to worry about heat-related symptoms, but there are others that can be just as dangerous.
Take it slow and steady
Exercising in the cold can be as hard on the body as in the heat. We think in the heat it's harder to push yourself because the heat exhausts you much quicker. On the other hand, cold can give you a false sense of energy, especially when it isn’t too cold out. You don’t get heat exhaustion like in the summer and you don’t dehydrate as quickly. Yes, you can still dehydrate, but you won’t sweat as much in the winter as quickly.
You can quickly overdo it in the winter because you have a sense of energy you don’t feel in the summer. You need to treat the change of season like a new workout. Make sure you take it slow and steady. Don’t get a sense you can do more and overdo it because of that.
Careful while shoveling
Snow is the death of too many people every year. Yes, snow is very annoying, inconvenient, and doesn’t always go away by the time you need it to. Shoveling snow is dangerous for people with heart conditions. You need to treat it like any other exercise. Go slow and steady. It may take you a long time to shovel a driveway, but it doesn’t do any good if you get halfway through before putting yourself in the hospital.
If you have a few extra bucks, I would suggest finding a neighborhood kid looking to make some money and have them do it. It will benefit both of you and you can invite them back every snow shower. It’s like having your own personal snow shoveler.
Keeping risks to a minimum
Limit your exposure to the cold. Many of us know that cold weather can constrict blood vessels which can cause a slew of issues for those with heart failure. The biggest issue that can come of this is edema. Swelling in your legs and ankles can increase when you have constriction of your veins. It may not be much, but when you live on the edge of fluid overload and swelling, this could be the tipping point.
Make sure you keep your feet and legs warm. Also, if you are on blood thinners, you are more susceptible to cold injury. Frostbite can happen quicker when on blood thinners so it's one more thing to be careful about. Get some nice, warm socks, some good shoes, and layer your clothes to stay warm. They make accessories to help keep you warm, so use them. With cold weather arriving or already here depending on where you live, there is no reason to risk life or limb when we have the knowledge to protect ourselves.
What type of heart failure have you been diagnosed with?