December 20, 2023

Stay safe this season and ensure your winter memories are fond ones.

The winter season is full of excitement — hot cocoa, sweet treats, festivals and fun with family and friends. But it also brings an increased risk of heart trouble. In fact, Americans are up to 30% more likely to have a heart attack in the colder winter months. Here are a few tips to protect your heart health this winter:

Consider Biological Factors

The main risk during the cold months is biological. When exposed to cold temperatures, our blood vessels constrict to help keep blood near our vital organs (think heart, lungs, brain). However, this increases blood pressure and reduces circulation, putting strain on the heart. Take special care if you have a known heart condition or have already had a heart attack. Work with your primary care provider to plan for the winter months.

A few other ways to fight back:

  • When going outside be sure to dress appropriately — layering and wearing a hat and gloves can help to maintain your body temperature.
  • Avoid or limit alcoholic beverages — excessive consumption of these beverages can create a false sense of being warm.
  • If spending long periods outdoors, be sure to go indoors regularly to warm up.

Don’t Overwork Yourself

A change in physical activity levels also increases risk. During the winter months, we often find ourselves doing more strenuous physical activities than we are used to such as walking through heavy snow and shoveling. Sudden exertion is often a culprit of many heart attacks.

If possible:

  • Take regular breaks from physical activity to avoid overworking the body.
  • If a necessary task such as shoveling feels too challenging or risky to complete alone, ask a neighbor or loved one if they can assist.

Consider Your Emotions

While the holidays are typically associated with fond, happy memories. But for many people, this time brings additional stress and emotions — which have been shown to increase the risk of both heart attack and stroke.  When stressed (maybe by having to host everyone for the holidays), hormones are released in the body which, in turn, increase risk of a cardiac event.

A few tips:

  • Practice self-care, especially around the holidays. It can help you manage stress and minimize your risk.
  • Check out some further reading with 7 tips for managing holiday stress.

Know the Signs and Take Care

Finally, make sure you know the signs of heart trouble:

  • chest pain which may extend to the neck arms and back of chest
  • shortness of breath
  • excessive sweating
  • dizziness or
  • nausea

If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 right away and stay on the phone with the emergency operator while waiting for the ambulance.

The winter months are full of opportunities to make memories. Stay safe this season and ensure those memories are fond ones. We here at Apex Benefits wish you a happy, healthy holiday season!

Weekly Recipe

Caramel Toffee Fruit Kebabs

3 Ways to Protect Your Heart This Winter