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Did You Know That Cold Weather Can Affect Your Heart?

Here's how to protect it when the mercury drops

How cold effects the heart.

Getty Kathrin Ziegler

It's not hard to imagine someone collapsing from a heart attack in the heat - but what about in cold weather? Surprising though it seems, heart health can be seriously affected by cold weather no matter your age or fitness levels.

Here's what you need to know about keeping warm in cold weather and how to protect your heart from any adverse strain.

Why is my heart at risk?

When your body temperature drops and you feel cold, the heart does its best to keep you warm and beats faster to pump blood around the body to protect major organs.

However, colder weather causes the arteries to constrict which then increases the pulse and raises blood pressure. This in turn can raise the risk of developing blood clots which lead to heart attack and stroke.

Hormone changes in colder weather can make blood more likely to clot. As the arteries constrict due to cold air, the chance of blockages increase.

A heart attack happens when a blood clot suddenly and completely blocks one of the heart arteries, starving part of the heart muscle of oxygen. This usually causes permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Every year in the UK around 275,000 people have a heart attack and 120,000 of these are fatal.

Wind and rain are dangerous too

Not only does the cold cause body temperatures to plummet but so do high winds, snow and rain. Wind is deceptive and pernicious as it removes the layer of heated air which surrounds the body. Being wet or damp causes the body to lose heat faster than it would at the same temperature in dry conditions.

Who is at risk of hypothermia?

When your body can no longer produce enough energy to keep warm and your body temperature has dropped to below 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit then you will get hypothermia.

Children and the elderly are especially at special risk because they have lower levels of subcutaneous fat and many not be as aware of temperature levels. Symptoms can include mental confusion, shivering, sleepiness and slowed reactions.

Why shovelling snow is a no go (if you have angina)

So your heart is already working hard to keep you warm and if you now add into the mix sudden exertion through activity and you may exacerbate any heart-related conditions.

For example if you need to shovel snow from the drive or dig out your car and suffer from angina (chest pain) then you are putting your heart under additional strain.

Angina is most commonly felt during stress and cold weather. Symptoms are usually felt as a heaviness or feeling of pressure across the middle of the chest with pain sometimes radiating down one or both arms and up into the neck or jaw.

How to protect your heart in the cold

The British Heart Foundation recommends:

  • Keep your home to at least 18 C (65 F) and use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket to keep warm in bed.
  • Stay active indoors – move around at least once an hour and avoid sitting still for long periods.
  • Eat regular hot meals and drinks to give your body the energy it needs to keep you warm.
  • Wrap up in layers of clothing – a few thin layers can help keep you warmer than one thick layer.
  • A lot of heat is lost from your head so wear a hat and scarf when going outside.

Story Credit: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/a27485/did-you-know-that-cold-weather-could-affect-your-heart/