Shoveling snow increases risk for winter heart attacks, experts say
By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer
Share this article:
As winter kicks off and snowstorms strike across the country, an unsuspected risk arises when performing outside activities like shoveling.
“It has been shown by many, many studies that there are more heart attacks in the December-January timeframe,” Doctor Samin Sharma, director of Clinical and Interventional Cardiology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said.
While intense cardio exercise certainly puts a strain on the heart, cold weather is an exacerbating factor which leads to an increase in heart-related failures and fatalities over the winter season.
These factors can even put an otherwise healthy person at risk.
Cold weather causes the arteries to constrict, which then raises blood pressure and pulse rate. These increases put additional strain on the heart.
“That is a perfect storm, in my opinion, to have a heart attack in cardiac patients,” Sharma said.
Additionally, hormonal changes that come with the colder weather can make blood more conducive to clotting.
Cortisone levels in the wintertime fluctuate with the colder weather, causing platelets to become ‘sticky,' Sharma said. These sticky platelets allow clots to form more easily. As the arteries constrict due to cold air, blockages increase.
“Blockages that were 60 percent may now be 75 or 80 percent,” Sharma said.
10 recipes to keep you warm on a snowy day
The dangers of frostbite: How to prevent, spot and treat it
Hypothermia: How to spot and prevent this cold weather danger
How to protect pipes from freezing in frigid weather
Experts debunk 4 winter driving myths
When performing intense cardio exercise during the winter months, such as running long distances or shoveling snow, dress warmly and wear layers to keep your body temperature high, preventing inflammation and constriction.
Cardiac patients should avoid strenuous wintertime activity altogether.
Though it's a simple solution, one must also compensate for the lack of exposure to sunlight, Sharma said.
New research suggests that decreased exposure to sunlight may factor into the wintertime heart attack equation.
As the air gets colder, people bundle up before spending time outdoors, leaving less skin to be exposed to the UV rays which aid in the body’s vitamin D production.
“In the winter, traditionally, your days are shortened, you have less sun so you have less production of vitamin D,” Sharma said. Vitamin D works as a vitamin for the arteries, preventing inflammation and improving their function.
A vitamin D deficit can accentuate the inflammation of the arteries.
Sharma recommends regular exposure to sunlight in the cold weather months and adding, with a physician’s consent, an over-the-counter vitamin D supplement.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - November 20, 2018, 10:38:07 AM EST
Holiday plans are looking drastically different for many people who were heavily affected by hurricanes Florence and Michael.
Weather News - November 20, 2018, 9:36:55 AM EST
On the heels of deadly Tropical Storm Toraji, a budding tropical storm will bring a renewed risk of flooding and mudslides to Vietnam this weekend.
Weather News - November 20, 2018, 7:08:00 AM EST
One person is dead and dozens injured after a landslide derailed a commuter train traveling toward Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday.
Weather News - November 20, 2018, 5:50:47 AM EST
Beginning at midweek and continuing through Black Friday, a series of storm systems will bring sweeping changes to the recent weather pattern that has been locked in across California.
The busiest travel week of the year also falls during a volatile time for extreme weather.
Weather News - November 20, 2018, 9:32:18 AM EST
People that fled their homes to escape the Camp Fire are on the move again before a storm delivers drenching rain to California.
Weather News - November 19, 2018, 4:16:58 PM EST
For the third straight year, the American Farm Bureau Federation found the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner to have declined in total price from the previous year's holiday.
Weather News - November 20, 2018, 6:11:21 AM EST
The coldest air so far this season will sweep across northern Europe during the first half of this week, bringing the potential for snow to some communities.