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Why Does Cold Weather Increase Your Risk for Heart Attack?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

heart attack

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  • Your risk of heart attack rises with exposure to the cold as your blood pressure and risk of dehydration increase; drinking a caffeinated beverage may also temporarily spike your blood pressure and overload your cardiovascular system
  • While there are significant health benefits to cold exposure under controlled conditions, those over 55 are at greatest risk for a heart attack while exercising or shoveling snow
  • Those who have asymptomatic arterial blockages unable to meet the rising demand of physical activity in the cold weather are also at increased risk for heart attack
  • Additional hazards from cold and frigid temperatures include frostnip, frostbite, slips and falls and hypothermia
  • Take precautions when outside as the temperature dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit by dressing in layers, covering your head and hands, wearing sturdy shoes with traction and ensuring someone knows where you are and when to expect you back

A number of bodily changes occur when you are exposed to cold temperatures. Although irritating and sometimes embarrassing, a runny nose in the cold weather is actually one way your body protects your mucous membranes. The additional fluid helps catch bacteria, viruses and other foreign bodies, which then leave as the mucus drips out of your nose.

The winter months are also a time when your skin tends to dry out, leaving it feeling tight, rough and itchy. Aside from being uncomfortable and less than aesthetically desirable, when it becomes severe, it can crack, making it a perfect entryway for germs. Although external variables contribute to dry skin, including omega-3 fats in your diet can help soothe irritated skin.


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