People who are fighting hypertension should know they may need to fight harder in the winter months. That’s because as the temperature goes down, blood pressure goes up. The blood vessels narrow as they get colder, particularly in people over 65, causing the heart to have to pump harder to get blood to circulate. This is compounded by the tendency many people have to gain weight in the winter, which also causes blood pressure to rise.
That’s why it’s important that people with elevated blood pressure be particularly assiduous about properly managing the condition in the winter. That means taking blood pressure medication regularly and on schedule. Drugs used to lower blood pressure are a frequent culprit in drug interactions, so if you’re taking blood pressure pills, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any other drugs you’re taking, including over-the-counter medicines, and carefully read the label of anything you plan to take to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your prescriptions.
Keeping your weight under control is also helpful. Diet and exercise each contribute to avoiding hypertension problems. In general, losing just ten pounds can lower you blood pressure measurably. However, it’s not enough to just eat right or just work out; you need to do both. You should try to exercise 30 minutes a day, four days a week. This will strengthen your heart and help you reduce stress, as well as helping keep your weight under control. However, if you’ve been largely sedentary, work your way up to this, as sudden exertion can make heart problems worse. On the diet side, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber will help you with heart health, as will avoiding sodium and sugar.
In addition, looking out for your blood pressure means looking out for your health in general. Diseases such as influenza are particularly dangerous for people with heart disease. Avoid the flu with regular hand washing, and talk to your doctor about a flu shot—it should be safe for most people, but check first in case you have any contraindications. Tell your health care team if you take even over-the-counter medicines for a cold or flu.