There’s’ no denying it. Fall is in full swing. The temperatures are dropping. And winter is right around the corner.
But even if you aren’t a fall fan like me… or a winter wonderland enthusiast like my husband… it’s not all bad. After all, you still have Thanksgiving, hot chocolate, Christmas, and cozy sweaters to look forward too.
There’s a lot to love about the coming months.
But there’s one nightmare scenario which NONE of us expect to face. And that’s racing to the emergency room as we fight back pain and fear.
But if you’re not careful… and you don’t prepare ahead… that’s exactly what you could find yourself facing.
Because research out of Sweden has revealed, colder temperatures send our heart attack risk climbing. And as temperatures plummet, our heart risk continues to climb.
Making that nightmare E.R. scenario, a terrible possibility.
3 reasons heart attack risk rises in the winter
Experts believe there are three reasons our heart attack risk rockets in the winter.
But they aren’t all directly tied to the temperatures. And you can’t solve a single one of them by popping a pill.
1. Physical response:
Cold temperatures likely do play a part in our rising heart attack risk. You see, your body tries to protect itself when it gets cold by contracting your muscles and restricting your blood flow.
But it turns out this physical response to cold is a double-edged sword. Because while it could help keep you from freezing to death in an extreme situation, it’s also hard on your heart. In some cases, this sudden shift in the cardiovascular system can trigger a heart attack.
2. Respiratory infections:
As it gets colder outside, we’ll be spending more and more time inside. And that means exposure to more viruses as cold and flu season picks up speed.
Well, it turns out that flu you’re fighting or that hacking cough you can’t quite shake could be taking a toll on your heart too. In fact, experts say that our chance of having a heart attack is an astounding six times greater during the first week after catching the flu or other respiratory infection.
Holiday treats are headed our way. By the end of this month, we will all be knee deep in pies, cookies, and cocktails. And the feasting will continue straight on through New Year’s Day.
But all those heavy meals and sugary desserts can take a real toll, raising our heart attack risk. And ironically, that toll can be much stiffer if you tend to eat healthy for the rest of the year. Because all those bad fats, junk carbs, and added sugars and alcohol can overwhelm your system triggering a heart attack.
Think like a fox to reduce heart attack risk
Okay, so there’s no magic pill to erase your elevated heart attack risk during the cold weather months. But lowering your risk IS possible. And don’t worry, it’s probably far easier than you imagine.
Start by making like an arctic fox instead of a grizzly bear.
Grizzlies are of course well-known for sleeping all through winter. But the arctic fox, on the other hand, stays active all year-round.
And I want you to follow the fox’s lead. Even when it’s too cold to take a brisk walk around the neighborhood, you need to find a way to sneak in some aerobic exercise.
Some malls open early so walkers can get their steps in. Or a nearby senior center or the local YMCA may offer classes, equipment, and even a heated indoor pool so you can mix things up and keep it interesting.
Or you can try my favorite trick. Find some fun free exercise videos to try on YouTube.
Borrow this heart friendly grizzly bear trick
But that grizzly bear does have ONE thing right. Limiting time spent out in the freezing weather is a good idea.
And that’s ESPECIALLY true if you’re a senior, which automatically puts you in a higher risk group.
On days when the temperatures plummet, go easy on the outdoor activities. If your arteries don’t get too cold, they won’t constrict and stress your heart raising your heart attack risk.
Put down the pie AND the shovel
During the holiday party season pace yourself.
You don’t have to deny yourself a treat from time to time, of course. But don’t ignore the veggie platters. Try taking one cookie instead of six. Skip the second (and third) slice of pie. And make at least every other drink water, seltzer, coffee, or tea.
And finally, learn to let the kids handle it. Shoveling snow is a known heart attack trigger. And that’s especially true for men.
In fact, according to researchers at Harvard, your risk of heart attack increases as the snow gets deeper, and the longer the snow falls.
So, give your heart a break and the neighborhood kids a chance to learn what the phrase “work ethic” really means. It’ll be good for both of you.
It really is a magical time of year. So let’s keep it that way by reducing your winter heart attack risk using these simple guidelines.