Heart Health in Winter

Rob Heaton

Demands on your heart may be greater in winter, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.  



Winter living takes physical effort, walking through snowdrifts, wearing heavy clothing.  Add the exertion of snow clearing to the mix and you have the perfect scenario for a heart attack.  Sick with the flu? That’s the cherry on top. Sudden exertion requiring endurance or effort at times of irregular activity 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.  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.  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 makes 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.  Your pharmacist can assist with answering questions or providing suggestions of referral.

Rob Heaton
Cambrian Pharmacy PharmaChoice
Alberta, AB
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