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Cold weather heart risks

The risk of heart attack or stroke increases when you add activities like shoveling out from a winter snowstorm

Cold weather is more than just an inconvenience. It’s actually a medical risk for your heart. Cold temperatures reduce the amount of oxygen supply to the blood as the blood is being diverted to keep the body and the muscles warm.

Dr. Sridhar Sampath Kumar/Commonwealth Health Physician Network: “This tends to be worse when it’s cold and windy so it’s important for people to dress warmly and in layers when they go outside.”

Great Valley Cardiologist Dr. Sridhar Sampath Kumar says hypothermia from the cold is dangerous but also the risk for heart attack or stroke increases when you add activities like shoveling out from a winter snowstorm. He says if you notice any feelings that are out of the ordinary, don’t ignore them.

Dr. Sridhar Sampath Kumar/Commonwealth Health Physician Network: “The usual symptoms for men are chest discomfort and shortness of breath and in women, more non-specific, they may be jaw discomfort or arm discomfort which are not cataclysmic signs that everybody reads about or sees on tv.”

Of course, the cold weather poses a greater risk for the elderly or anyone with heart issues.

And even though we’re talking about the body’s reaction to colder weather, it’s not a bad idea to get some fresh air when you can even when it’s cold.

Dr. Sridhar Sampath Kumar/Commonwealth Health Physician Network: “I think going outside is critically important. The most common thing I see in NEPA is lack of vitamin D directly related to sun exposure. The other issue during winter in the shorter days and the amount of depression is quite a bit.”

So, remember to pay attention to any unusual symptoms, dress in layers and make sure someone else is aware of your whereabouts when you do go outside.

Doctors also warn about alcohol use and being outdoors in the cold. Alcohol creates a false sense of warmth as the body loses heat through dilated blood vessels.

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