Having atrial fibrillation doesn't mean that you have to miss out on winter fun. You can still get outside and enjoy winter activities. Here are 5 winter heart risks and a few tips for this winter season.
5 winter heart risks and how to cope.
- Cold weather can narrow the arteries, which reduces blood flow to the heart and puts more stress on the heart by increasing your blood pressure and heart rate. Dress in layers to stay warm during winter activities. Remove layers as you heat up to avoid sweating, which can chill you. Stay indoors during extremely cold weather.
- Breathing cold air can cause chest pain for some people. If this happens to you, use a scarf to warm the air that you breathe.
- The sudden exertion of snow shoveling and winter vacation activities (such as skiing) can strain the heart, especially when combined with cold weather. Check with your doctor before starting a new winter activity and ease into it gradually.
- Winter "cocooning" can lead to weight gain, unhealthy eating, and a lack of physical activity, which can be hard on the heart. Make an effort to get some physical activity each day and try to eat healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables instead of "comfort foods" such as cheese, cookies, and chocolate.
- Winter is flu season and having the flu increases your risk of a heart attack. Ask your doctor about having a flu shot and wash your hands frequently to reduce your risk of the flu.
Stay active, despite the weather.
It's important for people with AFib to stay active, despite the weather and the heart risks of winter. Being physically active helps improve heart health and overall health. Before getting more active, check with your doctor first to find out what level of activity is safe for you.
Try some new winter activities.
Here are a few winter activities to try:
- cross-country skiing
- building a snowman or having a snowball fight
- mall-walking (for days when it's too cold to exercise outside)
Remember to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise, especially if you have not been very active in the past.
Visit Living with Atrial Fibrillation to learn more about how to live well with AFib.
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