How Does Cold Weather Affect Your Heart?

You may already know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. More people die each year from heart disease than all types of cancer combined. But did you know that cold weather can affect your heart? This means that people with cardiovascular disease should be especially mindful of heart health during the winter.

How does cold weather affect your heart?

Cold weather can put a lot of stress on the body and affect your heart in a number of ways.

Lower temperatures can cause blood vessels to narrow. This means that your heart must work harder to move blood throughout the body. Cold weather can also affect your heart by increasing your blood pressure and heart rate.

Those with coronary heart disease may suffer chest pain or discomfort – also known as angina pectoris – in cold weather.

The risk for heart attacks is higher in cold weather than during warmer seasons. Winter weather may put those who aren’t normally active – and aren’t properly conditioned for physical activity – in situations where they are suddenly active. Cold weather combined with physical exertion can strain on your heart, especially if you’re not used to either one.

Be extra cautious in cold weather if you have cardiovascular disease.

Don’t hibernate!

Regular exercise is important for everyone’s health in every season.Here’s how to stay safely active in winter:

  • Here in Northwest Arkansas, we have plenty of mild weather even in winter. Take advantage of pleasant days to get outside for a walk or a bike ride.
  • Walk at the mall, the Jones Center, or other favorite indoor sites.
  • Swim at an indoor pool.
  • Take classes in yoga or other enjoyable exercise.
  • Add movement to your daily life — take the stairs, walk the hallways during breaks, or exercise with a DVD or YouTube video.

Set a regular time for exercise every day, and choose indoor or outdoor activity — there are lots of fun ways to get moving either way.

Stay safe this winter

Listen to what your body tells you, and pay attention to how you’re feeling when out in cold weather. When being active in cold weather, go slow and take it easy.

Learn the warning signs of heart attack – remember the warning signs of heart attack are different for men and women. Call 911 immediately if you or someone you are with shows warning signs of a heart attack.

Wear warm clothing that provides adequate insulation when heading outdoors. Don’t wear clothing that’s too tight, which may constrict blood flow. Layering is key, and don’t forget your cold weather accessories such as gloves, hats, scarves, warm socks, and neck gaiters.

Don’t wait until you have a heart problem before seeking healthcare. Visit your doctor regularly. Annual wellness exams are a great way to get an assessment of your current level of health, and can actually make you healthier. For questions or concerns regarding your heart health, talk to your doctor.