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Heart Health Tips for Cold Weather

heart health tips for cold weather

As we ease into winter, we enter a period of transition – warm clothes are coming out of the closet for the first time in months, summer outdoor activities are being phased out in favor of winter sports, and we must adjust to vastly shorter days. Winter in Denver often brings cold, snowy weather, which can wreak havoc on your heart health. Studies have found that Americans face a 30% increased risk of heart attack during winter months, and even individuals in good health have an increased risk.

At South Denver Cardiology, we’re committed to helping you live a heart-healthy life. We want to take this opportunity to provide some tips to help maintain optimal heart health during the winter months.

Impact of Cold Weather on Your Heart Health

It shouldn’t be surprising that the risk of heart attacks rises during the winter. There are a variety of ways in which cold weather negatively impacts your heart health:

  1. Increased blood pressure Cold weather narrows your blood vessels, forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood to the other regions of your body. This can cause your blood pressure to rise.
  2. Increased pulse rate – In cold weather, your heart works harder to maintain a proper core body temperature. This results in an increased heart rate, which can be dangerous for people with an elevated risk of heart disease.
  3. Less active lifestyle – Many people don’t exercise as much during the winter. This is especially common for individuals who primarily exercise outdoors, as many outdoor athletic activities are more challenging to perform when it’s really cold. A more sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact your heart health.
  4. Unhealthy nutrition – Comfort foods are much more popular in winter. Unfortunately, these fatty foods can increase your cholesterol, raise your blood pressure and cause you to gain weight. In addition, many people increase their alcohol consumption – particularly over the holiday season – which can negatively impact heart health.
  5. Seasonal flu – Winter is flu season, and this can increase stress on your heart. Studies have found that individuals with heart disease have a six times greater risk of a heart attack after getting the flu. Several studies are finding similar impacts from COVID-19.

How to Reduce the Risk of Winter Heart Attacks

Understanding the reasons behind an increased risk of winter heart attacks is the first step to minimizing this risk. The next step is to make adjustments to your daily routine that will mitigate the ways in which cold weather places stress on your heart. The following tips will help you maintain optimal heart health during the cold weather:

  1. exercising to maintain optimal heart health during winterExercise regularly – If your primary fitness routine involves outdoor activities which aren’t conducive to performing in cold weather, transition to indoor exercise. Our Medical Fitness Gym at South Denver Cardiology provides a great fitness center if you don’t have a gym membership. You can also opt for home workouts found on YouTube and the many fitness apps available.
  2. Ease into outdoor exercise – If you choose to exercise outdoors during the winter, gradually work back up to your full routine as your body acclimates to the change in temperature. In addition, make sure you always warm up before exercising outdoors during the winter months.
  3. Dress in layers – Dressing in layers allows you to stay warm while providing the flexibility to remove layers as your activity levels increase. This prevents you from overheating.
  4. Be strategic about activities such as shoveling snow – First, consult with your PCP or Cardiologist to ensure you are fit to shovel snow. Shoveling snow can place a great deal of stress on your heart. You can mitigate this by shoveling in stages instead of waiting until the storm’s end when there are huge snowdrifts. You can also use a snow blower, reducing the amount of physical exertion required. If you have a heart condition, consider paying someone like a local neighborhood kid to shovel for you.
  5. Hydrate – Hydration is critical at all times of the year. Whether you’re exercising indoors or outdoors, take frequent water breaks. It’s also important to hydrate during sedentary activities since the winters in Denver are very dry.
  6. Take precautions if you have a heart condition – Cold weather places stress on everyone’s heart, but it is particularly problematic for individuals with a heart condition. Our heart doctors can help you establish the proper modifications to your activity level to minimize your risk of a winter heart attack.
  7. Take a flu shot – Since the flu increases your risk of a heart attack, a flu shot is a no-brainer. It’s an easy precaution to help you avoid an illness that can trigger a cardiac event.
  8. Eat a heart-healthy diet – This is important all year, but especially in the winter. Resist the urge to binge on comfort foods and instead choose foods that will help you manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  9. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake – These drinks can cause your blood pressure to rise. Moderation is key when consuming alcohol and caffeinated beverages in the winter.
  10. Quit smoking – Smoking can increase your blood pressure, cause plaque to build up in your arteries, and wreak havoc on your heart health. Quitting smoking is one of the best heart health decisions you can make.
  11. Know the warning signs of a heart attack – Chest pain is the most common symptom of a cardiac event, but shortness of breath, dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea, and lightheadedness may also indicate that you’re experiencing a heart attack. If you develop any of these symptoms, take a break from whatever activity you’re performing at once.

If you think you may be having a heart attack, seek medical attention right away. Prompt treatment can significantly improve your ability to make a full recovery.

South Denver Cardiology Can Help You Maintain Optimal Heart Health this Winter

At South Denver Cardiology, we offer a wide range of preventive services to help you maintain a healthy heart all year. Our nutritional counseling services can help you learn how to eat a heart-healthy diet. You can also take advantage of the certified exercise specialists at our Medical Fitness Gym to make sure you’re winter exercise routine is appropriate for the condition of your heart. We can also perform a calcium heart score test to identify your risk level of a heart attack, providing you with important knowledge that can guide the preventive measures you take on a daily basis.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment at South Denver Cardiology Associates, serving the South Denver area and Littleton, with locations in Englewood, Denver, Parker, and Castle Rock.

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