Preparing Your Heart for Winter
November 29, 2023
If you have cardiovascular disease or any form of persistent Afib, you must prepare for the upcoming winter. Granted, we live in Florida, where the seasons don’t change much, but as a patient with heart disease, even small fluctuations in temperature or short periods of time where the temperature dips significantly can have an effect. Why? our blood vessels are very responsive to the cold. When the temperature drops significantly outside, and we are not prepared with appropriate clothing, the blood vessels constrict to maintain body heat. This is important if we are facing a cold emergency and is a holdover from our ancestors for whom colder weather was often a life-threatening issue. Regardless of the weather, cold poses a true concern. It’s important to understand that with your blood vessels constricted, your heart has a tougher time pumping blood around the body, and this can worsen Afib, as well as hasten the worsening of longer-term congestive heart failure.
What to Do
First and foremost, it’s worth discussing how to manage cold weather with your cardiologist or electrophysiologist. Opening this line of communication can give you a good idea of what to look out for. For example, if you go out in the cold and start to feel some pain in your extremities, you should be evaluated for peripheral artery disease. Similarly, if you begin to feel non-emergency angina or chest pain, this is an important time to make an appointment with your cardiologist or electrophysiologist. Any worsening of Afib should be brought up with your electrophysiologist.
Drink Plenty of Water
We are told to drink lots of water to keep our bodies in top shape, but did you know that proper hydration also helps the heart pump more efficiently? Blood, as with our bodies, is made up of mostly water. If this water is in short supply, blood becomes more viscous. Often, because it is cold outside, we do not drink enough, so we may get dehydrated without even knowing. Even in cold weather, we lose a good deal of moisture from the body just from trying to keep ourselves warm and the low humidity environment in winter. Despite not feeling the heat, it’s important to drink plenty of water – 64 to 80 ounces worth each day.
If you have some weight to lose, now would be a great time to start that process. Extra weight means extra adipose or fat tissue. This, in turn, requires greater vasculature and, thus, more blood pumping. This is one of the reasons why patients who are overweight or obese may have high blood pressure. As you probably know, high blood pressure and Afib go hand-in-hand as a dual threat to heart health. Though you may blame the “winter layer” on your weight gain, managing your weight is of paramount importance now and all year long.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
We don’t want you to sweat whenever you go out in chilly weather, but it’s important to wear appropriate clothing in the cold. Even if you like the feeling of the cold air on your skin, staying warm under thermal clothing is important.
Be Safe, and Don’t Worry
Stress and anxiety are two significant contributors to heart disease, and we often worry about too much, causing ourselves unnecessary concern. In this case, if we approach our hearts as we would winterize our car, for any of you from the northeast, we can prevent many of the concerns associated with cardiovascular disease in winter and prepare ourselves for these healthy and enjoyable months.
Don’t Hesitate to Get Help
Knowledge is power in the same is true for the heart. Be sure to contact an electrophysiologist like Dr. Tordini to learn more about any Afib concerns you may have this winter. We want you to understand your condition and maintain an enjoyable and healthy lifestyle.