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What effect does cold weather have on the heart?

Cooler temperatures and maybe ice and snow are to be expected this winter. In most cases, shoveling snow probably won’t harm your health. If you have heart disease, you should be aware of how cold weather might influence your condition. Some people shouldn’t participate in unexpected physical activity when outside in the cold, such as carrying a heavy snow shovel. Simply walking through deep, wet snow or snow drifts might overwork some people’s hearts.

What happens when it’s extra cold out?

The physical demands of outdoor activities may be taxing for those who aren’t prepared, and many people often underestimate the risks of venturing out when it’s chilly. The following are some ways in which the cold may affect the heart:

  • Increased Heart Rate: Your body may narrow blood vessels and reroute blood flow to keep your inside organs warm when the temperature outside drops. As a result, the heart may have to work harder to pump blood, which may raise the heart rate.
  • Increased Blood Pressure: Due to the constriction of blood vessels during cold weather, blood pressure may temporarily increase. This rise in blood pressure may be especially dangerous for those who already have hypertension or cardiovascular disease.
  • Shoveling Snow: Snow shoveling is a rigorous physical activity that might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease due to the combination of cold weather and vigorous exercise. The sudden increase in heart rate and blood pressure that shoveling may cause is especially dangerous for people with preexisting cardiac conditions.
  • Blood Clot Risk: Some individuals may be more prone to developing blood clots as the temperature drops. Clots pose a significant health risk if they lodge in vital organs like the heart or lungs.
  • Respiratory Issues: When exposed to cold air, those with chronic respiratory problems may experience narrowing of the airways and an increase in cardiac workload.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Winter blues are common due to shorter days and lower temperatures, and they may have a negative impact on cardiovascular health by raising stress levels and encouraging undesirable or risky behaviors.

Don’t let winter chill put you at risk

When temperatures drop, it is particularly important for those who already have cardiac issues to take extra care. Maintain a warm body temperature, wear layers, and reduce your time spent in really cold environments. If you know you have a problem with your heart, you should talk to your cardiologist to get individualized recommendations and to be sure you are taking the right precautions to protect your heart as the temperature drops.