Winter Can Be Hard on the Heart

The cold and the snow of common with winter weather can also be health hazards. The cold air can decrease oxygen flow to the heart by constricting blood vessels. Even simple acts like walking become more challenging, and many individuals are at risk for a heart attack.

Strenuous Activities

Many people perform activities in the winter which they cannot during warmer weather. Cross-country and downhill skiing can be strenuous activities if your body is not prepared for them. Shoveling snow also puts a strain on the heart. Even pushing a snow blower carries a risk.

Everyday activities become more difficult with wet, heavy snow blanketing the ground, or with large snow drifts to walk over. If your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure may also spike which can lead to a heart attack.

Who Is at Risk?

Certain individuals must exercise caution when engaging in common wintertime activities. If you have had a heart attack before, or if you have heart disease, consult with a physician before cross-country skiing. If your blood pressure or cholesterol is high, if you smoke or if you do not often get exercise, you likewise are at a higher risk for a heart attack.

Protect Your Heart

If you do need to engage in strenuous activity, take the proper precautions.

  • Most heart attacks happen in the morning because blood is more likely to clot. Shovel snow later in the day if you can.
  • When we eat, blood goes to our stomach. Avoid heavy meals before you shovel or ski.
  • Stimulants can put excess strain on your heart. Do not smoke or drink caffeine an hour before or an hour after your exercise.
  • Dress warmly to avoid the constriction of blood vessels.
  • Breathing cold air can trigger angina or breathing problems. Cover your mouth when you are out in wintry weather.

Signs of a Heart Attack

If you get light headed or are short of breath, you may be having a heart attack. Tightness or burning in the neck, jaw, chest, arms or back, especially on the left side, could also signal a heart attack. Call 911 immediately if you experience these symptoms.