It’s important to know how cold weather can affect your heart, especially if you have cardiovascular disease.
Many people don’t realize how much they exert themselves when they are not conditioned for it simply by walking through snow. Even those that are accustomed to being outdoors in winter can accidentally suffer hypothermia if certain precautions are not taken.
Hypothermia means the body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It occurs when your body can’t produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough. It can kill you. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness.
Children, our elderly and those with heart disease are at higher risk. As we age we seem to become almost immune to feeling moderately cold conditions, we can suffer hypothermia without realizing the danger.
People with heart disease often suffer chest pain or discomfort when they’re in cold weather. Some studies suggest that harsh winter weather may increase a person’s risk of heart attack due to overexertion.
It’s not just cold temperatures, high winds, snow and dampness can also cause the body to lose warmth. Wind is especially dangerous, because it removes the layer of heated air from around your body. Similarly, dampness causes the body to lose heat faster than it would at the same temperature in drier conditions.
To keep warm, wear layers of clothing. This traps air between layers, forming a protective insulation. Also, cover your head. Heat is lost through your head, ears are especially prone to frostbite. Keep your hands and feet warm, too, as they lose heat quickly.
Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before going outdoors or when outside. Alcohol gives an initial feeling of warmth, because blood vessels in the skin expand. Heat is then drawn away from the body’s vital organs.