Cold winter weather can bring about extra health difficulties for people with PF. This includes challenges impacting all parts of the mind, body, and spirit. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your health in the winter as well. In addition to protecting your lung health this winter, it’s helpful to be mindful of ways to protect your heart health too.
Studies have shown that cold weather can increase your risk of heart attack, especially if you’re older than 65 or are already immunocompromised. Because of this, people with and impacted by PF should learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack, in case of emergency this winter. The symptoms of a heart attack may be mild, and they are often different depending on whether you are male or female.
Here are the warning signs to look out for. Call 911 if you experience these signs of a heart attack:
- Chest pain, as if an elephant were standing on your chest
- Chest discomfort or pressure
- A feeling of fullness in the center of your chest
- Pain in the upper body, namely the jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, back, or abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
You may have noticed that the signs of a heart attack can mimic flu-like symptoms or overlap with common PF symptoms. Because of this, it’s particularly important to track your own symptoms on a regular basis, so you can understand what is “normal” for your health and notice when cardiovascular concerns may be surfacing. Free recordkeeping templates are available here and here to help guide you.
All throughout the winter, people can take precautionary measures to strengthen and protect their heart health.
Tips for people with PF include:
- Dress in layers, wear a hat and gloves, and try to stay warm – just make sure not to get overheated!
- Be mindful of your nutrition and stick with healthy diets designed for people with PF
- Avoid strenuous activity, but do your best to stay physically active with safe and gentle activities
- Manage your stress levels through mindfulness, meditation, or other therapies and practices that can build resilience and support mental health
- Prevent respiratory infections (which can increase the risk of heart attack) by washing your hands, social distancing if/as needed, and learning about the influenza vaccine here
- Keep track of your own progress in regards to treating PF, so you can notice if there are any new or unusual symptoms
Please reach out to your doctor with any questions, and seek immediate medical attention if you are concerned about your heart health. Our community of people with and impacted by PF can also share tips and encouragement at the virtual support group meetups and in the online community forum.