Baby, It’s Cold Outside Tips to Keep Your Heart Warm

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The winter season brings colder temperatures and ice and snow. And, unfortunately, it also brings an increased risk of having a heart attack, especially for those who already have cardiovascular disease. It’s important to take care of your heart all year long, but it needs a little extra TLC during the colder months.

Cold Hearted

Many people aren’t aware of the toll that outdoor activities can take on your body, or the dangers of being outside in the cold. Just walking through snowdrifts can put stress on your heart, so imagine how much strain shoveling snow produces, especially if your heart is already weak. Those with heart disease and all older people should also be mindful of hypothermia. Hypothermia, which can be fatal, includes signs such as clumsiness, confusion, sleepiness and shivering. Also, people with coronary heart disease often suffer angina pectoris (chest pain) when they’re in cold weather. Some studies suggest that winter weather can increase a person’s risk of heart attack due to overexertion.

Be Smart—Take Care of Your Heart

If you absolutely have to go outside and brave the cold weather, be sure to keep warm by wearing layers of clothing and wearing a hat (most heat is lost through the head). If shoveling snow is on your agenda, try to shovel fresh snow—it’s lighter than packed snow—and only fill your shovel half way. Most importantly, listen to your body! Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Here are some signs that may mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Pay attention to discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Don’t wait until you have a “close call” to start taking care of your heart. If you follow these guidelines today, you just may protect yourself in the future:

1.     Exercise. A regular workout is good for your heart as well as your waistline. You don’t have to work out for hours or run a marathon. Anything that elevates your heart rate to a good target level is fine.

2.     Eat colorful, lowfat meals. Adding color to your meals will give you a lot of nutrition to help you maintain good heart health.

3.     Get good sleep. Getting enough rest is vital to good heart health. Seven to eight hours of sleep is ideal, while five or less can be harmful.

4.     Reduce your stress. Stress not only creates problems within your body, but you also tend to slack on exercise and eating healthy, nutritious meals.

It’s never too early to start taking care of your ticker. While the most dangerous time of the year for your heart is in the colder months, it really should be something that you think about every day. It’s important to see your doctor and discuss all the ways you can live a healthy life!

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