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Winter Weather Heart Safety

Winter is a season marked by a higher incidence of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, especially in locations where the weather gets cold and snowy. Knowing what precautions you need to take to keep your heart healthy, as well as the warning signs of a heart attack, are especially important at this time of year.

Here are some things that can affect your heart during the winter:

  • Cold – When the temperature drops, your blood vessels and arteries narrow, restricting the amount of blood that flows through them. This decreases the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart and makes your heart pump harder and faster to get blood through those narrowed passageways, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Strenuous activity – Strenuous activities you may perform during the winter place increased stress on your heart. Shoveling, pushing your car out of the snow or even walking briskly against a strong wind can increase your heart’s demand for oxygen. Add that to the additional stress already placed on your heart from the cold and that can spell a recipe for disaster.
  • Changes to your routine – Even if you’re committed to living a healthy lifestyle, it can be difficult to eat healthy or stick to your exercise routine during the winter months. More demands on your time during the holiday season, dreary days that keep you from heading to the gym and the added stress of the season can all negatively affect your heart health.

Here are 5 ways to protect your heart this winter:

  1. Dress warmly when temps dip, but wear layers to avoid getting overheated
  2. Take frequent breaks when performing strenuous activities like shoveling
  3. Stay hydrated (dehydration can increase your heart rate)
  4. Don’t drink alcohol if you’ll be out in the cold
  5. Watch for these warning signs of a heart attack:
    • Pain or discomfort in your chest
    • Pain in your jaw, neck, back, arm or shoulder
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nausea or vomiting