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The Heart of Winter

By Alecia Sexton

Staff Writer

Winter is a wonderful time filled with so many things to enjoy like family, snow, and hot cocoa. While there are many things to cherish about this season, there are also a few things to be weary of. The occurrence of heart attacks and strokes increases by 31 percent during the colder months due to the affect weather has on blood vessels, according to a 2015 study done by Mt. Sinai Hospital.

The science behind this is that in response to falling temperatures, blood vessels such as arteries and veins constrict in an attempt to increase blood pressure and aid in circulation. In order for these vessels to constrict, the heart must use more energy and ultimately work harder. This means the heart demands more oxygen, nutrients and care than normal in colder months.

Studies in 2016 by Consumer Reports validated that for each 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit drop in body temperature, the chance of having a cardiovascular incident increases by two percent.

It’s important to also know that once body temperatures fall below 95 degrees, the heart muscle endures damage, making cardiovascular health extremely important during wintertime.

If heart disease or cardiovascular episodes are common in your family, or if you simply want to preserve your heart as much as possible, there are some simple ways to support it this season. For one, wearing hats and scarves are important since most of the body’s heat is let off at the top of the head. Limiting time outside in cold temperatures can also be highly beneficial. This means coming inside for at least ten minutes for every thirty minutes spent outdoors.

If you want to get more technical, you can speak with your healthcare provider about getting your blood cholesterol and glucose levels checked. These numbers will give you a peek into the condition of your heart and can help gauge how much effort should be put into preserving it, since high levels of these biomarkers are telltale signs that cardiovascular events may be in your future.

As a precaution, regardless of age, gender or background, everyone can benefit from switching to a low fat diet over the winter in an effort to support healthy cholesterol levels. Engaging in light cardiovascular exercise and avoiding highly physically stressful situations like shoveling for extended periods of time or moving heavy things around in the cold, may also help protect the heart.

Editor’s Note: The Pioneer is not responsible for giving medical advice. Please refer to a medical professional for serious concerns regarding personal health.

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