The cold weather can have treacherous effects on your health, specifically your heart, and can impact you in ways you may not have considered.
According to Northwestern Medicine, the drop in temperature can cause blood vessels to contract and raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
According to the Mayo Clinic, coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease, can worsen in the cold. The disease occurs when major blood vessels that supply blood, air, and nutrients to the heart become damaged. The Mayo Clinic states the following three most common symptoms of coronary heart disease:
Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart attack
“Heart attacks are more common in winter,” says Patrica Vassallo, MD, a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine.
The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, heart attack symptoms can vary; some people have more-mild chest pain while others have more severe pain. The Mayo Clinic states the following as common signs of a heart attack:
Symptoms of A Heart Attack
- Pressure, tightness, pain or a squeezing feeling in your chest and may spread to your neck, jaw or back
- Nausea, heartburn and or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Fatigue, lightheadedness and or dizziness
Lifestyle changes can also increase your risk, especially strenuous physical activities such as shoveling snow. Physical, emotional and temperature changes can all increase the risk of a heart attack and other health problems during the winter. According to Northwestern Medicine, the following is a list of precautions that can be taken to decrease your risk:
Precautions To Decrease Health Risks
- Dress for the weather, dress warmly and with lots of layers
- Take breaks inside if outside for extended lengths of time
- Avoid excess alcohol, because alcohol can make you feel warmer than you are
- Do not shovel snow for long periods with no breaks
- Wash your hands frequently
For more information on heart health in the winter, including how heart emergency symptoms can differ for women and men, visit https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/your-winter-heart.