Everything has a season — including heart attacks, which are more common during the winter.
According to the American Heart Association, even regions with mild climates see spikes in heart attacks during the winter months. As winter continues during American Heart Month, everyone should take stock of their risk factors and lifestyle and take steps to protect themselves.
According to Northwestern Medicine, the biggest risk factor is the cold, which causes blood vessels to contract and can raise blood pressure. Meanwhile, the heart works even harder to maintain body temperature. When body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the resulting hypothermia can also lead to heart damage. By dressing for the weather with coats, hats, gloves and socks, you can also protect your heart.
Lifestyle factors can also increase risk. For many, shoveling or walking through snow are more strenuous than their usual activities, and the sudden increase in workload can add additional strain on the heart. Stay home if necessary and don’t be afraid to ask for help clearing your sidewalk or driveway.
Emotional stress may also contribute to the winter heart attack spike. Practice self-care to help you manage your stress and seek help if necessary.
The most important tip: Year-round good habits, like regular exercise and eating a heart-healthy diet. Start now and be ready when the next cold season rolls in.