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How to Protect Your Heart in the Winter

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Posted by Temple Heart & Vascular Institute

When it comes to taking care of your heart, you know you should watch what you eat and get in some physical activity on a regular basis. But did you know you might also need to be extra careful during the winter months?

Cold weather can cause your heart rate or blood pressure to increase. And your heart may have to work harder to pump blood. These temperature changes can also play a role in someone who has heart disease or other heart-related conditions.

Here are a few reasons why you need to take extra care of your heart, with tips for how you can avoid them.

Cold Weather

In the Philadelphia region, we live in a cold climate. Be aware that chilly weather causes arteries to narrow, limiting blood flow to the heart. When paired with low temperatures, strenuous activities like shoveling snow can put significant strain on the heart and trigger a heart attack.

If you have heart disease, you might have chest pain when it's cold, because your body is working harder than usual to stay warm.

What you can do

If you have medical issues such as heart disease or high blood pressure (hypertension), ask your doctor if it's safe to shovel snow. You might consider asking a neighbor for help.

If you do your own shoveling, stay hydrated, work slowly and take breaks. Use a shovel with a small blade to lighten the load. Dress in layers so you can remove clothing if you get too warm, since overheating can lead to a heart attack.

Know the signs of heart attack for men and women >

Seasonal Flu and COVID

Effects of influenza (flu) include inflammation, dehydration and fever — all of which can increase stress on your heart. COVID-19 may cause similar symptoms. A 2018 study found that people with heart disease had a 6 times higher risk of heart attack after getting the flu.1 A growing number of studies indicate that COVID-19 may lead to heart damage in some patients.

What you can do

Typical recommendations to avoid getting the flu include getting a flu shot, washing your hands often and staying away from people who are sick.

With the coronavirus spiking across the nation, added precautions include wearing a mask, staying home as much as possible and keeping at least 6 feet away from anyone not living with you, even if they do not appear to be sick. If you get the flu or COVID-19, rest, stay hydrated and follow your doctor's advice.

Is it flu or COVID-19? Here's how to tell > 

Too Much Time Indoors

When temperatures drop, many of us retreat indoors and become more sedentary. And because of the pandemic, you're probably staying inside more than usual.

What you can do

Stay active with at-home workouts, like circuit training, yoga or cardio dance videos, and household chores, like vacuuming. Exercising may also help relieve stress. And as you've heard before, stress can harm your heart.

Learn 5 ways you can manage stress and anxiety >


Alcohol and comfort foods — which are high in salt, fat and sugar — may be harder to resist in the winter months.

What you can do

Warm up with healthy foods such as:

  • Low-sodium, cream-free soups
  • Oatmeal
  • Roasted carrots and other winter vegetables

Here are ways you can make the best food choices while at home >

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure or other heart conditions, continue your treatment plan and maintain heart-healthy habits to help prevent heart-related complications.

If you need to see a heart specialist, the Temple Heart & Vascular Institute can help. Call us at 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) or schedule an appointment today.


1. Jeffrey C. Kwong, M.D., Kevin L. Schwartz, M.D., Michael A. Campitelli, M.P.H., Hannah Chung, M.P.H., Natasha S. Crowcroft, M.D., Timothy Karnauchow, Ph.D., et al. Acute Myocardial Infarction after Laboratory-Confirmed Influenza Infection. N Engl J Med 2018; 378:345-353.
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