Heart Attack Risk Increases in Winter
• Cold weather. When a person’s body gets cold, the body’s automatic response is to narrow the blood vessels. Cutting down on blood flow to the skin means the body doesn’t lose as much heat. But for people who already have clogged arteries, the narrowing of the blood vessels raises the risk that one will become blocked, and could trigger a heart attack.
• Snow shoveling. Shoveling snow is very strenuous, causing the heart to work harder and raising your blood pressure. People who never exercise often go out and shovel snow in the winter. So, if you must shovel, push the snow rather that lift it, stay warm doing it, and take breaks. If you are overweight, or over 55 years old, or have suffered a previous heart attack, don’t shovel at all.
• Flu. The flu is another culprit responsible for the winter surge in heart attacks. A flu infection can increase blood pressure, and stir up white blood cell activity—all bad news for your heart. Ask your doctor about getting a flu shot.
*Archives of Internal Medicine is a bi-monthly professional medical journal published by the American Medical Association.