There’s no question that this winter has had more than its share of cold weather. Not just cold – bitter, bone-chilling days and nights that can literally take your breath away. As we look ahead on the calendar to longer days and warmer temperatures, the Heart Center team of Thomas Smith, MD, FACC and Lauralee Sprague, NP has some guidance and advice for protecting your heart in the winter months.
Some studies have shown that extremes in temperature – heat and cold – can lead to very negative health events affecting your heart. With foresight and smart planning, you can take steps to protect your most important muscle during the winter season.
- Dress in layers: wearing layers of clothing provides much-needed insulation, and a waterproof outer layer will prevent the inner clothing from moisture. And don’t forget a hat! Cold winds can quickly sap your body’s heat and energy, placing undue stress on your heart. Hypothermia can happen, even in cold temperatures that are not extreme.
- Take frequent breaks: you don’t need to clear your driveway of snow all at once, for example. Work slowly and carefully, using smaller shovel-fuls, and remember that pushing is easier on your heart than throwing.
- Recognize the signs of a heart attack: The saying, time is muscle, describes how every minute matters during a heart attack. If you feel discomfort in your chest or upper body (arms, back, neck, jaw, stomach), that lasts for more than a few minutes, or is intermittent, that could be the sign of a heart attack. Shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, or any combination of those, could also mean that you need immediate medical attention. By calling 9-1-1, an emergency medical team can start intervention more quickly than if you tried to drive yourself to a hospital.
- When working or travelling in the cold, watch for a lack of coordination, confusion, and drowsiness, particularly in the elderly.
For individuals who have been diagnosed with heart or vascular conditions, speak to your healthcare provider or cardiologist about protecting your heart through all seasons. Call the BCH Heart Center for an appointment at (716) 592-9644.