Winter weather brings many hardships with it — icy roads, frostbite, snowstorms and freezing temperatures — but it also can negatively impact your heart. Colder weather increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Your heart has to work harder.
The cold causes blood vessels to contract, which can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes because the heart has to work harder to pump blood. The heart works extra to maintain a healthy body temperature to avoid dropping below 95 degrees. Falling below this point can cause hypothermia and damage the heart muscle.
Your heart has to deal with added stress.
The holidays bring joy and love to our hearts while surrounded by friends and family, but with those smiles and laughs, stress can be included. Not only does stress increase high blood pressure, but it can also have a negative impact on your sleep pattern, food choices and exercise, which can harm your heart.
Your heart has to deal with unexpected physical activity.
Strenuous physical activity such as shoveling snow or walking through heavy snow can have a negative impact on your ticker. Don’t shovel first thing in the morning when your blood is most likely to clot — warm up before doing so, use a smaller shovel, dress appropriately and take a break if needed to make sure you stay safe.
Heart attack warning signs and symptoms.
Heart attack symptoms can vary between men and women, but the most common warning signs are jaw, neck or back pain, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath and chest pressure or pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical help.
Cold temperatures, physical activity and added stress are tough to avoid during the winter. However, you can try these tips from Northwestern Medicine to increase your chances of keeping your heart healthy.
- Dress appropriately. Wear layers, hats, gloves and heavy socks.
- Take breaks from shoveling snow. If you’re spending time outside, come inside to warm up and relax your heart.
- Wash your hands. Respiratory infections can increase the risk of a heart attack.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol can make you feel warmer than you really are, leading to danger if you’re outside in the cold for too long.
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