How Cold Hurts the Heart
With winter on its way, it’s important to know how cold weather can affect your health—in particular your heart. A 16-year study of more than 280,000 patients, reported on ScienceDaily, found that heart attack incidence peaks in winter, which may be due to colder temperatures or changes in behaviour. According to the American Heart Association, keeping warm can help protect your heart. Cold weather steals body heat, which means the body has to fight harder to keep its core temperature warm enough. This is particularly important for the elderly, who may have less body fat and a diminished ability to sense temperature, and people with cardiovascular disease. Here are the potential risks of cold weather, and what you can do to reduce their impact on your heart.
1. Less Exercise
Just because it’s cool out doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of winter outdoor activities you could be doing. Plus, it’s important to keep moving when the temperature drops. Exercise makes your heart stronger (like all muscles) and helps protect against coronary artery disease and vascular disease. According to cardiologists Jennifer H. Mieres, MD, FACC and Stacey E. Rosen, MD, FACC, co-authors of Heart Smart for Women, Six Steps in Six Weeks to Heart-Healthy Living, your goal should be to take every opportunity to keep your body moving, rather than remaining sitting or standing still. Their suggestions include pacing the room while you’re on the phone or watching TV, parking your car farther away from your office, the store, etc., and getting up from your desk at least once every hour to stretch your legs for at least one minute.
2. Bad Sleep Habits
A good night’s sleep is crucial for your well-being, and especially your heart health. Sleep heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels, and failing to get enough on a regular basis is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. If your room temperature is too low during winter it may interfere with your sleep pattern. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your thermostat to between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius for optimal sleep. Just take care not to oversleep: 2012 research links too much sleep to a higher risk of heart disease. Try to stick to the National Sleep Foundation recommendations, which are seven to nine hours of sleep for most adults between 18 and 64 years of age.
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