Avoiding a Winter Heart Attack

Research shows that colder temperatures tend to tighten the arteries, which restricts blood flow and decreases the heart’s oxygen supply.


When it comes to your heart, extra care is needed during the coldest months. While preventive measures are important 365 days a year, research shows the risk of heart attack is even higher in the winter.

It’s easy to blame snow shoveling for the increased risk, and it’s true that many people overexert themselves to clear their driveways and sidewalks. But there are other factors that make winter deadly.

The Research Behind Winter-time Heart Attacks

A Swiss study of more than 100,000 participants between the ages 35 and 80, found that some heart attack risk factors, including total cholesterol, blood pressure and waist circumference, were higher during the colder months. Because of the shorter days and lack of sunshine, people are more apt to feel depressed and discouraged in winter. They are more likely to be less active and overeat—especially high-fat comfort foods. Depression also causes chemical reactions that stress the cardiovascular system.

In addition, colder temperatures tend to tighten the arteries, which restricts blood flow and decreases the heart’s oxygen supply. Since the heart actually needs more oxygen in cold weather, as it works harder to maintain heat, this can set the stage for a heart attack.

How to Protect Your Heart in Cold Weather

  • Increase your activity, even if it’s walking at the mall or an energetic house cleaning.
  • Don’t forget to eat your fruits and vegetables, and watch out for empty calories.
  • Ask your doctor if vitamin D supplements are right for you.
  • Focus on a hobby; plan your spring garden or get together with friends who keep your spirits up.
  • Get some fresh air on milder days.
  • Take your prescribed medications.
  • Hire a neighbor to help with snow removal.
  • If you have to shovel, use a pushing motion rather than lifting, and rest frequently.
  • If you smoke, stop. Free help is available by calling Henry Ford Allegiance Tobacco Treatment at (517) 205-7444.
  • Avoid or decrease alcohol use.
  • Try relaxation techniques to manage stress.


What do you do to stay healthy and beat the blues in the cold weather months? Use the box below to comment.

The best chance of surviving a heart attack is to act quickly. Do not wait for symptoms to go away. Call 9-1-1 immediately, and chew an aspirin while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.