Some think it’s just an old wives’ tale that the incidence of heart attack increases in wintertime due to superstition about bad things happening around the holidays, but a number of studies have shown a significant spike in cardiovascular disease during the cold months. For many reasons, including some beyond one’s control, winter is prime time for people at risk for heart problems. In this blog, you’ll read about why cardiovascular disease increases in winter and some simple ways you can avoid cardiovascular difficulties as temperatures continue to drop.
When you’re cold, your blood vessels constrict to conserve heat and energy, putting extra strain on your heart to circulate blood through your body. The capillaries in your lungs also shrink when you’re breathing in cold air, so compared with breathing warming air, you take in less oxygen with each breath. The extra work your heart has to do can put you at risk of a heart attack, especially if you add in a physical activity like shoveling a driveway walking through snow to the mix. In order to help your heart relax, be mindful of your body’s limits. Dress in lots of layers to keep your body warm, and if you begin to feel fatigued during an activity, give your body a break.
By the same token, though, it’s important to remain physically active during the winter months, as sloth can damage heart health. Consider joining a gym, taking fitness classes, or volunteering to keep your heart active within reason.
During winter, people also tend to eat more than they usually do, and without fresh produce readily available, the temptation of snacky junk foods may be irresistible. Salty, fatty, or greasy foods are notorious fiends of those who need to mind their heart health. Monitor your winter diet to include plenty of nutrients and vitamins.
Speaking of vitamins, the short days and time inside could be reducing your intake of vitamin D, which could be leading to additional problems. As much as you can, get sunlight and drink plenty of orange juice.
The winter holidays often invite binge drinking as a means of celebration. While drinking is fine in moderation, excessive drinking can cause hypertension and increase the risk of heart attack. Especially during winter when other factors can compromise your body, be mindful of your drinking and drink responsibly.
Silly as this may sound, breathing in smoke from fireplaces reduces the amount of oxygen you can take in per breath and increases the potential of plaque buildup in blood vessels, so it’s important to mind what you’re breathing in. If you’re sitting near a fire, step away for fresh air every so often to reduce the strain on your heart.
Make sure you get your flu shot and wash your hands to avoid the regular winter bugs. If your body is already at risk for cardiovascular disease, you don’t want to compromise your system any further with a cold or a stomach virus.
As long as you’re mindful about your eating, behavior, and breath, you can weather the winter months free from heart problems. Consult your doctor before any major changes, but bearing these common hazards in mind, you’ll be in good health come spring.