Cold weather can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as flu and colds – it could even make coronavirus more severe. Our tips will help keep your heart healthy this winter.
1. Manage your heart or circulatory condition
Your heart needs to work much harder in colder temperatures to keep blood pumping around your body. If your heart health and underlying conditions are well managed, you’re less likely to have problems if you do get a cold as the cool weather sets in. An important way to support your heart health is by taking your medication on time. Keeping to a schedule, setting reminders and getting a repeat prescription can help you to keep on top of your routine.
There are plenty of online pharmacies registered with the NHS that offer a free repeat prescription service. Pharmacy2u and PillTime are just some of the handy services that allow you to reorder medication online and get reminders as well as free deliveries.
- Find out more in our top tips for adjusting to medication.
If you have any concerns or simply want to stay in touch about your health, call your GP to arrange a phone or video appointment. Most appointments are currently taking place over the phone or via video to keep everyone safe and to lower the risk of catching Covid-19.
- Read more about phone and video appointments.
2. Protect yourself from the flu
The start of a new year can be a good time to take stock of our health, and ensure we're doing everything we can to protect it. The flu is more commonly spread during winter, and can cause very serious complications. You’re more at risk if you are older and you have an existing heart condition, but there may be other reasons to get it, such as living with a vulnerable person or working in a job where you’re dealing with lots of people.
The NHS flu jab has been offered to more people than ever before this winter, and it's not too late to get it if you haven't had it already. If you’re not eligible, you can choose to pay for the jab or check if your employer may be offering it.
- Read more about the flu jab.
3. Fuel your body with tasty, healthy food
It's common to crave comfort food during the winter months - but it’s all about balance when it comes to your diet. This is just as true around this time of year. While heavy, stodgy dishes might be tempting during the winter weather, it's important to fuel your body with the food it needs to stay healthy. Fruit and veggies are packed full of essential vitamins and minerals that boost your immune system, meaning you’re more likely to fight off a cold or pneumonia.
Try these simple, warming winter dishes which are packed with nutrients and delicious flavour:
- Chicken and chestnut mushroom pasta bake
- Roasted tomato and lentil soup
- Slow cooked beef pie
- Carrot and coriander soup
Use our recipe finder to find more inspiration for lunch or dinner - you can even filter by cuisine to find a dish that suits you!
4. Keep moving
Being overweight puts strain on your body, heart and immune system and may make it less effective at fighting infections. It also puts you more at risk of complications should you catch coronavirus.
Exercising can be harder in the winter as the dark evenings and rainy weather can make us feel less motivated. However, there are lots of activities you can do indoors instead.
Here are some easy ideas to get you started:
- Many exercise classes, such as yoga and pilates, are now running as virtual classes (for example over Zoom) - or you could take up dancing if that's more your style.
- Discover 7 exercises you can do when stuck at home.
- If you have problems walking or standing, we have some chair based exercises you can try.
- Struggle to find the time for exercise? Try our 10-minute living room workout for a quick way to get moving.
- If you don’t mind getting out and about, wrap up and go for an atmospheric winter walk whilst topping up your vitamin D.
For more information have a look at our page on how to avoid winter weight gain.
5. Look after your mental health
Shorter days, darker nights and more time indoors can make us feel low. The lack of sunlight also means that many of us aren’t getting the right amount of Vitamin D, which can also contribute to low mood. It’s recommended that we all consider taking a 10 microgram Vitamin D supplement in autumn and winter. This is even more important if you don’t go outside very much or if you cover most of your skin.
- Read more about vitamin D and your heart.
Being active and keeping in touch with friends and family can help improve your mood. Many people also find practicing mindfulness or meditation useful - why not try putting 10 minutes a day in your diary?
- Read more about mindfulness and meditation and try our six-minute meditation.
Managing stress is particularly important in the winter, as too much can affect how our immune system works. Hormones from stress may suppress immune function and increase blood pressure. It might also lead to us reaching for sugary snacks and drinking too much alcohol which will impact your overall mood. Have a look at our stress page for ideas on how to manage this.
- We have lots of information on emotional wellbeing and there is lots of support available for those who need it.