Research indicates that cold weather leads to a higher number of heart attacks. Many theories have been developed to explain why this season causes more heart issues. One is that blood vessels constrict due to the drop in temperature. Another theory is that people are not as active in the winter and when they are active, they overexert themselves. That, combined with the constricted blood vessels, leads to disaster. Shoveling is a perfect example of an activity that occurs in cold, winter weather and may result in a heart attack.
The American Heart Association provides tips to protect your heart when clearing snow. Consider the following:
- Bundle up properly in layers of clothing, a hat, scarf and gloves. Cold temperatures can cause hypothermia if you aren't properly dressed. The leading cause of hypothermia death is heart failure.
- Take breaks to allow your heart to recover from any stress shoveling has caused. Listen to the signals of your body. If your body indicates you should take a break, take one. The snow can wait.
- Lifting heavy snow puts a strain on your heart by increasing your blood pressure. Use a small shovel so you limit the amount of snow you lift. Yes, you will have to lift the shovel more times but it is safer to do lots of smaller lifts instead of fewer, heavier ones.
- Push the snow instead of lifting, if possible.
- Avoid eating a meal before or immediately after shoveling. Eating a big meal puts an extra stress on your heart.
- Don't drink alcohol outside. It will provide you a false feeling of warmth and make it more difficult for you to pay attention to the signals of your body indicating when you need to take a break.
- If you are concerned you are experiencing a heart attack, seek medical attention to have it checked out. This may save your life.
Avoid becoming a winter heart attack statistic by following the above tips. If you are thinking about trying a new winter exercise activity such as snowshoeing, consider getting checked by a doctor first. Your doctor can make sure you are in good enough health to undertake a strenuous winter sport. If not, the doctor can advise you what limitations you should consider when starting out.
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Do you have more tips for staying warm and healthy during winter? Let us know in the comments section below.