Dropping temperatures, holiday stress and changes in routine can all put strain on the cardiovascular system. Be mindful of ways to minimize your risk.
During the winter months, heart health takes a turn for the worse. Even in warm climates, the number of fatal heart attacks rises this time of year, as do people’s heart rates. High blood pressure is also more common in the winter months.
While you can’t reduce all of your risks for heart disease, you can make good decisions that help keep your heart safe this winter.
Everything in Moderation
If the snow is falling where you are, you may be tempted to grab a shovel and get to work clearing paths. Remember to take it easy if you aren’t regularly physically active. Shoveling snow can be very hard on your heart. As cold temperatures force your body to work harder to stay warm, this activity can cause more harm than good.
If you have had a heart attack before, have heart disease, are typically not active, smoke, or have high blood pressure or cholesterol, you may want to skip snow shoveling. If you can’t, avoid doing the chore first thing in the morning. That’s when blood is most prone to clotting, and clots lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Don't forget to stretch and warm up before you shovel snow. Stay hydrated and take breaks. Split the work with loved ones if you can.
Stick to Routine
The holidays may bring an influx of family and friends to your door. Don’t let this get you off schedule with the things that keep you healthy.
Stay active at the gym or carefully enjoy outdoor activities. Keep taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor. If you have to take a pill at the same time every day, set an alarm so you don’t forget.
Make a point of getting enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation can irritate conditions that lead to heart disease, including inflammation and high blood pressure. And getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night was linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people older than age 45.
If the season has you frazzled, try to take the time to sooth your nerves. Stress is another contributing risk factor for heart disease.
Make time to reboot and recharge. Try meditation and breathing exercises. Consider taking up a soothing hobby, such as knitting or coloring, to help you relax and de-stress.
With the right steps, you can help keep your heart healthy this winter and for many winters to come.