Cold Weather Tips for Your Heart
Along with frigid cold and snow storms, winter brings with it some unique challenges for your heart. From trying to stay warm during outdoor workouts to heart attack risks while shoveling snow and the temptation to eat fatty comfort foods, it's easy for your heart health to drop with the temperature. But don't let it! Take our tips for surviving the cold to heart.
Stay Warm During Cold Weather Workouts
Whether you're going for a brisk walk, hitting the slopes, or snowshoeing through the park, there are some important precautions you should take for outdoor exercise in the winter. Make sure you:
- Stretch & warm up. Cold temps can make muscles tighter, so stretch well and warm up to prevent injury. Try to spend at least 20 seconds on each stretch to make sure you're loose. It's important to gradually ease your heart and body into a workout, so don't forget to warm up. Try a few jumping jacks before heading out the door to get the blood flowing.
- Layer for warmth. Cold temps, strong winds and damp conditions steal your body heat. Layers of clothing help trap the heat and insulate against the elements. Do not layer with cotton because once it becomes wet with sweat, the trapped moisture will make you feel colder. For your first layer, choose something that wicks moisture away (like a high-performance fabric). Next, add a layer of fleece and top with a thin waterproof layer.
Shoveling snow shouldn't lead to any health problems for most people. But if you're in poor physical condition or have an existing heart condition, your risk of having a heart attack goes up while shoveling snow. The combination of cold temperatures and strenuous physical activity increases the workload on your heart.
To help make snow removal safer, follow these tips:
- Take frequent breaks. Give yourself a break (or two, or three) while shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart.
- Avoid heavy meals and alcohol before or after shoveling. Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart. And alcohol may increase your sensation of warmth and make you underestimate the extra strain on your body.
- Use a small shovel or a snow thrower. The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more frequently than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.
- Avoid hypothermia. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing (see tips above) and wear a hat to trap your body's heat.
If you suspect a heart attack while shoveling snow or after coming in from the task, call 9-1-1. Minutes matter! Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1.
The Cold Weather Comfort Food Trap
What is it about winter that makes you want to eat loads of heavy stew followed by two servings of cake? Resist the temptation to overload on comfort food to stay warm! Instead of reaching for another serving of tater-tot casserole, put on a sweater and stick to these heart-healthy diet tips:
- Control your portion size
- Eat more vegetables and fruits
- Select whole grains
- Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol
- Choose low-fat protein sources
- Reduce the sodium in your food
- Read food nutrition labels
- Allow yourself an occasional treat
Get more tips on eating right for your heart from the American Heart Association. Visit heart.org/nutrition.
Source content for this article was provided by the American Heart Association. Learn more at heart.org.
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