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Can Cold Weather Cause a Heart Attack? Stay Heart Healthy This Winter

By Skye Sherman  •   January 15, 2024
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara - May 16, 2024

Photo Credit: by freepik.com
Photo Credit: by freepik.com

We all know heart health is vital to a thriving life. But did you know there are different ways to protect your heart health during the winter months? Your heart performs differently in cold weather than it does the rest of the year. In this article, we’ll share practical tips to help you prevent heart disease this winter and beyond.

Why winter is hard on your heart

You may be wondering why your approach to heart health should be any different in the winter. Why can’t you keep doing what you do in the summer and warmer months to ward off cardiovascular disease?

That’s because, just like the seasons, our bodies are always changing, especially as we age. They adapt and react to their environment and circumstances, including the weather.

According to the British Heart Foundation, “Our heart and blood vessels are always adapting to our environment, and to what is going on inside the body, to keep blood flowing so that different parts of the body get the oxygen and nutrients they need. When we are cold, our nervous system springs into action to stop our core body temperature dropping and to keep our vital organs working.”

So what does that mean for your heart and cardiovascular system? The report continues,

“When you are cold, blood vessels narrow in your skin and fingers and toes, so that less heat is lost. But this narrowing (called ‘vasoconstriction’) creates more pressure in the rest of the circulation, meaning the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. This is a normal response to the cold, but the extra strain can lead to heart symptoms for people who have an existing condition, especially during exercise.”

As you can see, your heart will respond differently to the environmental conditions in the winter than in the summer!

This is especially true if you have a heart condition or if you’re taking hypertension drugs like Vasotec (Enalapril), Prinivil (Lisinopril), or Norvasc (Amlodipine), or even anticoagulants like Eliquis (Apixaban) and Brilinta (Ticagrelor). Of course, it’s essential to always consult a doctor before taking any prescription drugs. Only a qualified medical professional can advise whether these drugs may be right for you.

Can cold weather cause a heart attack?

We’ve taken a look at how cold weather can put a strain on your heart. But can cold weather cause a heart attack?

Unfortunately, the answer may alarm you. The British Heart Foundation reports, “People with angina may experience a worsening in their symptoms during the winter months, or find that they are less able to be physically active when it’s cold. At the same time, the blood itself can become thicker and stickier and more likely to form clots – which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.”

Medical News Today confirms the same: “The risk of having a heart attack is higher with a combination of cold weather exposure and a sudden burst of exercise. As such, it is advisable for people to avoid sudden exertion in snowy weather, including shoveling snow or going for a walk through heavy, wet snow.”

You may not think of these necessary winter activities as exercise, but they are sure to get your blood pumping. This is why it’s important to stay warm in winter, especially if you have a heart condition. If you tend to feel worse when it’s cold outside, stay inside. You can always exercise indoors, and be careful exerting yourself.

Tips to keep your heart healthy in the winter

If you want to keep your heart healthy and your immune system in tip-top shape during the winter, you may want to consider taking an over-the-counter supplement like Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol), NutraZul, or Omega 3.

Vitamin D levels tend to decrease during the winter, which can also lead to a lower mood, so combating these lower levels with a supplement may be helpful. This is mostly due to the fact that people go outside less when it’s cold, and when they do, they cover up more. Less natural sun exposure means lower vitamin D levels. That’s why you may feel more down during winter.

Of course, you should always discuss it with your doctor before changing your health routine or adding any supplements.

In addition, research suggests that the risk of dying from heart disease during cold weather was higher in people who drank more than one alcoholic drink a week or had ever smoked. If you drink or smoke, it would be a good idea to quit or cut back, especially while the weather outside is frightful.

Another important step to take to reduce your chances of having a heart attack during cold spells is to minimize the effect of low temperatures on the heart by reducing the duration and intensity of your exposure to cold weather.

To do this, avoid going outside, especially when it’s particularly cold, wet, or windy. When you do venture out, wear plenty of layers and a warm hat and limit your consumption of alcohol, because it can make you feel warmer than you actually are. Avoid overworking yourself and go back inside regularly to warm up. Take a hot bath if you need one.

Nurturing healthy habits all year long can be a good idea for not only your long-term heart health, but also the risk level to your heart during cold weather snaps. Staying hydrated also improves circulation so aim to drink at least 6 cups of water daily.

Just because exercising out in the cold may be temporarily off the table doesn’t mean you should lay around like a couch potato. Instead, try new indoor workout classes with friends or get movement in at home. Even a brief workout or stretch will work wonders!

If you want to feel your best during the coldest months of the year, make sure to keep warm, keep moving, and nurture strong social connections and relationships with family and friends. This will help keep you upbeat and heart healthy.

Learn the warning signs of a heart attack this winter

Perhaps most importantly of all, learn the heart attack warning signs. The American Heart Association says to listen to your body: “Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait to call 911.”

Would you know if you or someone around you was having a heart attack? You could save a life because every minute counts.

Not all heart attacks are sudden, intense, and dramatic; some start slowly with only mild pain and discomfort. Here’s what to know about the heart attack warning signs:

● Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes (or pain that goes away then returns); it can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Some people describe this pain as “An elephant sitting on my chest.”

● Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, especially the left arm, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach area.

● Shortness of breath. This may be the only symptom, especially if you’re a diabetic, so be mindful of any new onset of shortness of breath even in the absence of chest pain.

● Other signs like breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness

Don’t wait to get help! Call 911 if you or someone around you is experiencing any of these symptoms. It’s always better to have help ready and not need it rather than not have help available in an emergency.

Take care of your heart this winter and it will take care of you back.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.