Many people change or adapt their lifestyles in the winter because of the colder temperatures and shorter days. Seasonal health is an important thing to keep an eye on, especially because health needs tend to change during the winter. Heart health is one example. Here’s why winter affects the heart, and what you can do to prevent heart problems during this season.
Cold Weather’s Effect on the Heart
Experts agree that the cold weather months can leave many people at risk for heart problems. Some reasons for this include:
- Cold temperatures constrict blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow and potentially contributing to blood clot formation.
- The holidays during the cold months tend to increase stress levels, which can in turn increase heart disease risk.
- Cold temperatures and less sunshine can trigger mental health conditions, which can also influence heart disease.
- Cold weather can disrupt exercise routines.
- Certain outdoor wintertime physical activities, such as snow shoveling, can put a lot of added stress on the heart over a short period of time.
All of these factors can increase heart attack and stroke risk during the winter. It’s important to pay attention to your cardiovascular health during this time and do whatever you can to stay well, especially if you have a high heart disease risk.
Ways to Protect Your Heart During the Winter
Here are a few good habits to practice this winter to protect your heart health, even if you’re not at risk for heart disease:
- Bundle up: One of the best ways to protect your overall health is to keep yourself warm. Make sure to wear jackets, hats, gloves, and other protective clothing as necessary when you go out into the cold. This will help your body continue to function properly.
- Don’t spend too much time outside: When temperatures reach or sink beneath freezing, it can be dangerous to spend extended amounts of time outdoors. Make sure you listen to your body and come inside occasionally to warm up.
- Be careful when shoveling: Shoveling is a strenuous activity that can wear you out quickly, increase your heart rate, and distract you from how cold your body is. Pay attention to how you feel as you shovel and make sure to take regular breaks. And don’t push yourself! If you need to ask for help, do it. Your heart will thank you.
- Drink alcohol in moderation: The warm feelings people get from alcohol consumption can trick them into thinking their bodies are warmer than they are, which can lead to health complications from the cold.
- Maintain an exercise routine: Staying active during the winter months can be tough because of how cold the weather is. But there are plenty of ways to exercise from the comfort of your home if you’re unable to go to a gym. Find a way that works for your body and lifestyle and stick with it!
- Manage other health conditions: Wintertime is the season of the flu and plenty of other health conditions that can weaken your immune system and increase your heart disease risk. Stay indoors if you get sick. Also, pay attention to your mental health and seek help if your condition becomes too difficult or if you become overstressed.
- Eat heart-healthy foods: Good nutrition is important during all seasons of the year, but doing your best to choose heart-healthy, gentle nutrition during the winter can give you added protection against heart disease. The holidays can often mess with nutritional plans, but that’s okay. Enjoy yourself and give yourself grace as you readjust afterward.
- Seek medical help: If you have a high risk of cardiovascular disease, get regular checkups to make sure your body is staying healthy.
If you need medical assistance or would like more advice about how to stay healthy this winter, we at Community Access Network are here for you! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.