Cold Weather and Your Heart

Winter wonderlands can be picturesque, but along with strong winds and cold temperatures, the snow and sleet can put you at a very serious risk when it comes to your blood pressure, heart health and even heartburn.

heart health cold1 Cold Weather and Your Heart Photo

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

According to researchers at the University of Florida, blood pressure can rise in cold temperatures. Even people who are generally healthy can have bouts of high blood pressure. This is made even worse for those who already suffer from hypertension, which is perilous since it can lead to heart attack and stroke.

In the winter months, people try to squeeze their outdoor chores into a short amount of time and overexert themselves in the morning because daylight is limited. This accentuates the rise in blood pressure that typically occurs as an “a.m. surge” to further increase risk of cardiac events.

Heart Attack

There is much speculation as to why the incidence of heart attacks occurs significantly more in the winter months.  One idea deals with the changing sunlight/sunset ratio that can alter our hormone levels. Cortisol can increase, lowering the resistance for a cardiovascular problem.

Also, in the wintertime, the body is working harder to maintain heat.  Arteries constrict in the cold, which diminishes blood flow, thereby lessening the amount of oxygen that the heart gets.  The demand, which a person may need but not receive, is made higher with heavy exertion. Angina pectoris—chest pain, pressure or chest discomfort—may be the first omen that you are in danger.

Don’t forget the hefty dose of cold exposure we get as we build snowmen with the kids, ski all day on the slope, hike snow trails or sled with the family. This is a prime setup for developing hypothermia, where your body isn’t able to keep core temperatures sufficiently warm.  Over time, the body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit—the definition of hypothermia.

Signs to look for in hypothermia include shivering, extreme fatigue, slow reaction time and lack of coordination or mental confusion.  Should these signs appear, get immediate medical attention. Heart failure can be the end result.

If you get chest pain, which may radiate down the arm, or have alternating chest pain that gets stronger and weaker in strength, call 911!

Heartburn

For many of us, Celebrating Christmas and New Year or sitting around with family and friends during the winter means eating hot holiday comfort foods.

The thing is, these very goodies can also be responsible for the heartburn and the discomfort that we experience after such rich, heavy meals. The chocolate in hot cocoa is a frequent trigger that causes chest pressure and burning, as are mac and cheese, grilled cheese with tomatoes, fried eggplant, fatty meats with onions, coffee and alcohol.

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