With dropping winter temperatures and snow storms just around the corner, it’s important to think about how this winter weather can affect your heart. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, director of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital, shares how you can make sure you’re heart is in good shape for the winter. 

Why is winter different in terms of heart health?

Colder temperatures combined with physical activity create circumstances that increase the risk of a heart attack. If not prepared, even walking through snow can put unwanted strain on your heart.

In fact:

  • Every 1.8 degree decrease in outside temperature is associated with 200 additional heart attacks.
  • Cold temperatures increase blood pressure and protein levels, which also increase heart attack risk.
  • 50 percent more heart attacks occur during the winter months than in the summer months.

If you have to shovel, how can you do it safely?

Nurse Rose: If you are planning on shoveling snow, keep in mind there are many ways to make snow removal safer.

  • Take breaks and pay attention to how your body feels during.
  • Avoid eating a large meal prior to shoveling (a small snack is ok).
  • Use a smaller shovel to avoid lifting heavy amounts of snow and push the snow out of the way instead of lifting it.
  • Dress warmly and drink plenty of water!
  • Know the warning signs of a heart attack and take action immediately if you or someone else is experiencing symptoms.

What are some signs of a heart attack?

Nurse Rose: Just knowing these symptoms and knowing when to call 911 can save your heart from severe damage.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

  1. Chest Discomfort: pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest
  2. Upper Body Discomfort: discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  3. Shortness of Breath
  4. Other Signs: these may include cold sweats, nausea and feeling light headed

What should you do if you or a loved one is having these symptoms?

Nurse Rose: If you experience any of these signs, don’t wait; call 911 immediately. Both Adventist HeathCare Washington Adventist Hospital and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center are accredited Chest Pain Centers, recognized for their excellence in the treatment of heart attack by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

To learn if your heart is up to task, take a free online heart risk assessment at www.TrustedHeartCare.com.

Additional Health Tips from Rose

Find more family health tips online or tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to hear Rose live.