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Caring For Your Heart in the Cold: Why Winter Months Can Be More Dangerous

February 6, 2014

Last winter, a research team at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles discovered some surprising statistics when comparing heart health to winter weather. Using four years of death certificates from seven locations throughout the United States (about 1.7 million cases), they found that death rates were up to 36 percent higher between the months of January through March, regardless of the area.

Caring For Your Heart in WinterBut what is it about the winter months that cause increased cardiovascular risks? While there’s no clear-cut explanation for the increased death rates, we do have some ideas as to the reasons behind winter weather danger. For starters, strenuous activity in cold weather can cause more stress on your body and overexertion increases your risk of heart attack. People with coronary heart disease need to be especially careful, as cold weather can cause chest pain.

Five Tips for Heart Health Throughout the Winter

  1. Bundle Up: Most deaths in cases of hypothermia are caused by heart failure due to your body’s inability to keep your internal temperature warm enough. Wearing extra layers helps insulate your body and regulate your body temperature.
  2. Avoid Unnecessary Exertion: If you have the shovel the driveway after a snowstorm, make sure you take lots of breaks and stay hydrated. Listen to your body cues to make sure you aren’t pushing yourself too far.
  3. Keep Up Your Exercise Routine: Winter can often make you want to stay under the blankets and relax, but do your best to keep up an exercise routine that keeps your heart in good shape.
  4. Battle Seasonal Blues: Keep your heart happy by finding ways to battle seasonal depression. Get out in the sun (when it’s out!), make plans with friends, or take up a new hobby.
  5. Conquer Winter Weight Gain: Don’t let the extra layers of clothing you’re wearing be an excuse to pack on dangerous belly fat. Keep up a well-balanced diet heavy on fruits and vegetables.

Most importantly, if you’re concerned about your heart health this winter, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your risks.

How are you keeping heart healthy in these cold months? Share your tips and strategies in the comments section below.