Cold Weather Can Increase Heart Disease Risks

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Frostbite and icy falls aren't the only dangers of winter weather. It's also a time when you should take care to protect your heart, especially if you have heart disease. Following are a few tips from the American Heart Association:

Cardiovascular Disease and the Flu

Every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about 36,000 people die from influenza (flu) and more than 200,000 are hospitalized due to complications from it. In addition, scientific studies have shown that death from the flu is more common among people with cardiovascular disease than any other chronic condition.

While heart patients are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as flu shots are available, they should not be deterred if they did not get one early in the season. You can still benefit by getting the shot as late as December or even January, because the flu season often lasts well into March.

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"Heart patients need to be as vigilant about preventing flu as they are about managing their cholesterol and blood pressure," said Harlan Krumholz, M.D., spokesperson for the American Heart Association and a professor of internal medicine and cardiology at the Yale University School of Medicine. "Getting a flu shot is an important way for people with heart disease to lower their risk."

Decongestants and High Blood Pressure

Heart patients who catch the flu or a cold this season should consider the medications they take to alleviate their symptoms. Most over-the-counter cold and flu products contain decongestants, and people with high blood pressure should know that using decongestants may raise blood pressure. Some common decongestants in over-the-counter medications include pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before choosing an over-the-counter cold or flu medication.

Snow shoveling and cardiac emergencies

Cardiovascular events like sudden cardiac arrest may increase during cold winter months, research shows. Activities like shoveling snow, often done by those who don't get regular physical activity, can trigger such cardiovascular emergencies. People who suffer cardiac arrest need CPR immediately, or they're unlikely to survive more than 10 to 12 minutes.

As temperatures drop, the American Heart Association encourages you to learn to save a life with Family & Friends CPR Anytime. The program is designed to be used at home and takes less than 30 minutes to learn. Everything needed to learn CPR comes in one kit -- inflatable manikin, instructional DVD and resource booklet. Multiple family members can use one CPR Anytime kit, so for less than $30 everyone can be prepared to save a life.

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