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“Every time you go out and it’s cold, your heart has to work that much harder to maintain your core body temperature,” says Dr. Islam Othman, a cardiologist with WakeMed Faculty Physicians – Raleigh Cardiology.
If you already suffer from some form of cardiovascular issue, the strain on your heart of going out in the cold is all the greater.
Several factors work against your cardiovascular system in winter.
Take all of these factors, and add exertion to the equation — shoveling snow, for instance, or going for a walk — and your heart is taxed all the more.
Which isn’t to say you should go Yogi Bear and hibernate for the winter. Far from it, advises Dr. Othman. “I’m not advocating inactivity,” he says. “We just need to do it the right way.” Here are some ways to protect your heart from the cold:
Taking these precautions will help ward off cardiovascular problems, but there’s no guarantee they will prevent them. Dr. Othman urges people not to delay seeking help if they think they might be exhibiting signs of a heart attack.
“I avoid using the term ‘chest pain,” Dr. Othman explains, “because often it’s not a pain. More often a heart problem is signified by a discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or by shortness of breath, shallow breathing or a cold sweat.
“If you experience any of these,” he adds, “get help, call 911.”
Even if you’re heart healthy, you should be extra attentive in the winter, says Dr. Othman. And there are two more things you can do.
“Keep an eye on your older neighbors, especially in extreme cold,” he says. “And learn CPR. Done properly, effective compressions can double, even triple, the survival rate of a heart attack.”
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