Heart Health in Winter

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Demands on your heart may be greater in winter, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.  In cold weather, blood vessels will constrict so that blood to your brain and major organs is ensured, but it is harder work for your heart.  

Winter living takes physical effort, walking through snow drifts, wearing heavy clothing.  Add the exertion of snow clearing to the mix and you have the perfect storm for a heart attack.  Sick with the flu? Sedentary lifestyle?  That’s the cherry on top.  Sudden exertion requiring endurance or effort at times of irregular activity or prolonged inactivity are reasons why this is the season for heart attacks. 

Maintaining a healthy heart requires greater effort, as activity can be reduced during inclement weather and in this pandemic environment.  However, engaging in regular exercise to keep your heart fit is required year-round.  It is important to stay active even in winter, but use extra caution to care for your heart.  You have an increased risk for heart attack when exerting yourself beyond normal daily activity, or under stress.  That added weight over the holiday season of feasting also makes more work for your heart.  The lack of consistent activity is one reason why heart attack risk increases in winter.  Whether it is the work of shoveling snow or the exhilarating fun of hitting the slopes, if you haven’t maintained regular activity, you risk placing an unexpected load on your heart.   

You can take steps to prepare your heart by ramping up your activity slowly to start, warm up and stretch indoors.  Stretch and move the muscles you will be using for your activity. An easy way to warm up is to go through the motions of the activity you will be performing outside. When outdoors, cover your head, wear layers of clothing to wick away perspiration, allow ease of movement, but not allow you to overheat.  Use a scarf or covering over the nose and mouth to allow easy breathing of warmed air.  Start early, don’t end up rushing, as everything in winter takes more time.  Start your activity slowly, wake up the muscles you will be using.  Take frequent breaks, before feeling tired, every 15 minutes, when exerting yourself outdoors.  Avoid smoking and caffeine during your breaks which make your heart work harder.  If you are sick or it’s very cold, stay indoors.

Your PharmaChoice pharmacist is available to discuss your health and wellness during the winter season.  If you have chronic health conditions such as asthma, breathing, or heart-related problems, seek medical advice for preparation, monitoring, and recovery from activities. 

Winter Saftey Tips from your Local Pharmacist

Rob Heaton
Cambrian Pharmacy PharmaChoice
Calgary, AB
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