Navigating the holidays with heart failure: What you need to know

The holiday season brings many opportunities to catch up with friends and family, to celebrate the completion of a successful year, and enjoy delicious food. It also increases the need to take time out to relax. 

When your regular routine is disrupted with a full calendar of activities and events such as family get-togethers, decorating, shopping, and meal prepping, it’s no surprise that the festive season can make one feel overwhelmed and stressed. In turn, these stresses can affect those living with heart failure. 

Here in Canada, the cold weather brings higher risk for heart failure patients as it can lead to increased blood pressure, which in turn raises your risk of stroke, as reported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Despite this, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits can help you navigate the festive season as stress-free as possible. 

Devise a plan to manage your energy

Heart failure affects each patient differently, so to help navigate the holidays, plan your time in advance to best manage your energy. This could mean visiting friends and family for one hour, scheduling in a rest break, and then returning for dinner or another visit. It’s a compromise that can help you preserve energy for upcoming social events during the holidays. 

Continue to exercise

Staying indoors for long periods of time can make anyone feel lethargic. Exercising helps keep your heart healthy and boosts feel-good endorphins that help you manage stress. Find a way that works for you whether it’s taking the dog for a walk after dinner, going swimming at your local community centre, doing a yoga class, or taking to the slopes for winter skiing. The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen. Start slow and build up, even 10 minutes a day can make a difference.

Change gift and cooking expectations 

Thinking about the friends and family you have yet to visit and the gifts you need to buy can make you feel stressed. Simplify your approach by lowering your expectations. Buy gifts online, many companies even gift wrap and deliver for you, or organize a gift exchange with your family so that there’s less pressure for everyone.Going out for dinner or splitting cooking tasks with your guests gives you more time to rest. Freeze leftovers for easy meals when you are recovering from a gathering. Consult our guide on how to eat healthy with heart failure for more information. 

Stay hydrated 

Turning your heating up high or lighting the fire naturally increases the temperatures in your home to a level that you’re not typically used to. This can increase your body heat which is why it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking water. Decrease your intake or avoid consuming caffeinated drinks like soda and coffee, drink water instead. 

Make sleep a priority 

Visits to friends and relatives often take longer than anticipated, and they can result in increased tiredness. Make sure to get enough sleep, even if you get home late. Plan a quiet, later start to the next day. The Heart and Stroke Foundation explains how “shortchanging yourself on sleep can leave you feeling cranky, raise blood pressure levels, and even lead to overeating.” 

Be present in each moment 

Oftentimes, the holiday season passes faster than you could have anticipated. Being present in each moment and mindful of how your body is reacting to what’s happening, allows you to better understand how you’re feeling. Moreover, it can help you improve the way in which you take care of yourself and appreciate the special moments with your loved ones. 

Say “no” when you need to 

Friends and family know you don’t have superhero powers so don’t be afraid to pass on events if you feel anything is too much. Focus on how you’re feeling and listen to your body when it feels stressed or needs rest. If you’re feeling lonely or isolated, reach out to friends or family for support — don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

We hope you have a wonderful, safe holiday season, and we wish you good health and happiness for 2019. 


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