woman with heart failure opening the door to a cold winter day

Winter Tips and Tricks for Living With Heart Failure

We are knocking on the door to winter. The trees are bare, temperatures are dropping and for many of us snow is on the way if it hasn’t already made an appearance. All of this sounds magical and lovely but in reality it can be scary and frustrating for those of us with chronic health conditions. Here are a few things that I have found helpful during the winter months.

Clothing and exposure

Dress the part & avoid prolonged exposure. Dressing in layers is very important during winter. This way if you get too overheated, you can take outer layers off. Don’t forget the sunscreen if you’re outside as the sun can burn just as easily during the winter as the summer. The sun also reflects off the snow so wear sunglasses too! Being outside in subzero temperatures can cause issues almost immediately. If you have to go outside be prepared with as much of your skin covered as possible. Wear a scarf or mask over your face to help warm and add humidity to the freezing, dry air.

Stay hydrated

This might sound a bit counterintuitive but it is just as important to stay hydrated in the winter as it is in the hot summer months. The air in the winter tends to be very dry in most places and we need to be sure to drink enough water every day.

Diet

Eat and balanced and healthy diet. This is something that is important year-round. Eating a heart-healthy diet can help minimize heart failure symptoms and keep you feeling good. Avoid foods that are high in salt. Watch portion sizes and choose whole grains. I try to plan meals a week in advance which makes it easier for me to stick to a healthy diet. Limit unhealthy treats. It’s okay to splurge here and there and have a treat just keep it in moderation.

Wash your hands and stay active

Washing your hands often will help keep you healthy during cold and flu season. Keep moving as much as you can. While the option for outdoor walks might not be an option for everyone depending on where you live, walk around your house as you are able. If you are having a bad symptom day, chair yoga is a good option. Some days are bad days and that’s okay too! Just pace yourself and do what you can.

Oxygen and medication management

Give your oxygen tank storage and concentrator a check-up. Make sure they aren’t stored near heating sources nor in your car if the temperatures are below freezing. Keep an eye on your medications and request refills ahead of time if possible so you don’t risk running out and having to go to the pharmacy in bad weather. Mail delivery for prescriptions is also a great option!

Support system

It is not uncommon to feel gloomy during the winter months. Having a support system can help combat those feelings. Schedule phone dates with friends and join online support groups. Reach out to family and friends as well!

These are just a few tips and tricks to help manage heart failure during the winter months. I would love to hear any other things that you have found helpful!

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