How to Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack in Cold Weather
by Swarna Bheemreddy, MD, FACC
Cold weather activities such as snow shoveling, skiing or walking through
heavy wet snow can increase the heart's work load. Exposure to cold
air constricts blood vessels, increases heart rate and decreases oxygen
supply to the heart, which can trigger a heart attack.
You may be at risk of heart attack during cold outdoor activities if any
of the following apply to you:
- Over 50 and overweight
- Prior history of heart attack or congestive heart failure
- Have heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
Precautions to take while shoveling snow include:
- Don't shovel early in the morning. This is when blood is more prone
- Avoid eating a heavy meal just before shoveling.
- Warm up first.
- Don't drink coffee, smoke, or consume alcohol, all of which can elevate
your blood pressure and heart rate, at least one hour before and after
- Use a small shovel.
- Shovel slowly and take frequent breaks.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Dress in layers.
- Cover your head, neck and ears.
- Watch for warning signs of a heart attack, such as tightness or discomfort
in the chest, neck, arms, or back. Other signs include lightheadedness,
dizziness, heart racing, and shortness of breath.
- If you think you're having a heart attack call 911.
Anyone at high risk–with any of the conditions noted above–should
avoid shoveling snow completely.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bheemreddy, call Partners in CardioVascular
Health at 302.421.4828