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Be Heart Smart

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Be heart smart: Protect your ticker in cold temperatures.

[Daily Dose] Frigid winter weather can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. But did you know it can also be life-threatening for anyone with coronary heart disease? Most heart attacks occur as a result of this disease, after many years of plaque build-up inside the coronary arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. When you’re cold, your body does its best to warm you. You may shiver to increase muscle warmth, which increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Also, your body constricts blood vessels near the skin’s surface, reducing the flow of warm blood there and helping to reduce heat loss. (That explains those cold fingers and toes!) This increases pressure in your arteries. Most heart-healthy people can tolerate these reactions without a problem. But for those with atherosclerosis, the body’s reaction to cold can trigger a heart attack. We’re only midway through winter, so take steps to protect yourself:

Avoid sudden exertion in the cold, such as shoveling snow or walking through deep snow.
Wear layers of clothing for insulation.
Keep your hands, feet, and head warm
Prevent colds and flu, since respiratory tract infections and influenza can trigger a heart attack.