Heart Health in Cold Weather

As Atlanta locks down and prepares for the snow and ice, we need to be aware of the risks associated with the cold weather. Our older residents and those with heart disease are particularly at risk. As we age, our ability to to maintain a normal body temperature decreases. If you have cardiovascular disease, talk with your doctor before exerting yourself in cold weather. Even walking through heavy, wet snow can strain a person’s heart.

Our bodies are not naturally conditioned to the physical stresses of outdoor activities; winter sports athletes take special precautions to avoid accidental hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when your internal body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit because you are not producing enough energy to maintain your internal body temperature. Symptoms of hypothermia include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness.

A persons risk of heart attack increases in winter weather due to overexertion. People with coronary heart disease can suffer chest pain or discomfort, or angina pectoris, when they are in cold weather.

Laying your clothes creates a protective insulation by trapping air between layers. Wearing a hat or head scarf will prevent heat being lost through your head and prevent frostbite on your ears. Your hands and feet lose heat quickly as well, so keep them bundled up too.

As warm as a cocktail initially makes your feel inside, alcoholic beverages cause blood vessels in the skin to expand. This causes heat to be drawn away from the vital organs, so don’t drink alcohol before going outdoors.

Stay warm, friends.

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