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Can Winter Put Extra Stress on the Heart?

By |2024-06-21T12:48:23-04:00January 19th, 2024|Categories: Cardiology, Health A-Z|Tags: , , |

In some cases, yes, according to CentraState cardiologist Mitul Patel, MD. The body’s normal response to cold temperatures is to make sure it can keep the core warm. To do this, the body vasoconstricts (squeezes or clamps down on) the blood vessels farthest from the heart and core to save energy.

This means your heart needs to work harder and beat faster to meet your body’s demand, especially if it’s windy or your clothing is damp or wet. Those with high blood pressure or a history of heart disease – and older people, who tend to have less protective fat under the skin – are at greater risk.

Here’s what can help:
♥ Wear layers when outside in the cold to trap heat.
♥ Minimize skin exposure with hats and gloves.
♥ Warm up the body with heated foods like soups and teas.

Snow shoveling is also notorious for causing heart attacks – and again, older people and those with a history of heart attacks are at higher risk. Many people underestimate how strenuous shoveling can be, especially heavy, wet snow. For those who are generally sedentary or not used to that workload, it can cause a significant strain on the heart.

“It’s best for these individuals to avoid shoveling altogether, if possible,” suggests Dr. Patel. “If you have to shovel, do it in batches, wear layers and be cautious.”


To learn more, visit our cardiology services page.

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