Why You Need to Take Extra Good Care of Your Heart During Winter

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Published on January 11, 2021

Why You Need to Take Extra Good Care of Your Heart During Winter

Photo of a heart-shaped clump of snow held in red-gloved handsWhen it comes to taking care of your heart, you know you should watch what you eat. But did you know you might also need to be extra careful during the winter months?

Studies show deaths from heart-related problems rise around the winter holidays and decline with the approach of spring. Low temperatures play a role in this seasonal trend, since deaths from heart attacks, circulatory problems and coronary heart disease go up as the mercury drops. But cold weather isn’t the only factor. Research has shown heart-related deaths increase across the nation, even in mild locations like Los Angeles, during winter.

Here are a few seasonal threats to your heart and how you can avoid them.             

Cold Weather

If you live in a cold climate, be aware that chilly weather causes arteries to narrow, limiting blood flow to the heart. When paired with low temperatures, strenuous activities like shoveling snow can put significant strain on the heart and trigger a heart attack. If you have heart disease, you might have chest pain when it’s cold because your body is working harder than usual to stay warm.

  • What you can do: If you have medical issues such as heart disease or high blood pressure, ask your doctor if it’s safe to shovel snow. You might consider hiring someone to do it for you. If you do your own shoveling, stay hydrated, work slowly and take breaks. Use a shovel with a small blade to lighten the load. Dress in layers so you can remove clothing if you get too warm, since overheating can lead to a heart attack. Know the signs of heart attack and pay attention to how you’re feeling.

Seasonal Flu

Effects of the flu include inflammation, dehydration and fever—all of which can increase stress on your heart. A 2018 study found that people with heart disease had a six times higher risk of heart attack after getting the flu.

  • What you can do: Get a flu shot, wash your hands often and stay away from people who are sick. If you get the flu, rest, stay hydrated and follow your doctor’s advice.

Too Much Time Indoors

When temperatures drop, many of us retreat indoors and become more sedentary.

  • What you can do: Stay active with at-home workouts, like circuit training, yoga or cardio dance videos, and household chores, like vacuuming. Exercising may also help relieve stress, which can harm your heart.


Alcohol and comfort foods, which are high in salt, fat and sugar, may be harder to resist, especially during the holidays and winter months.

  • What you can do: Warm up with healthy foods like low-sodium, cream-free soups, oatmeal, roasted carrots and other winter vegetables.

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure or other heart conditions, continue your treatment plan and maintain heart-healthy habits to help avoid heart-related complications.

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The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.