Health Risks Of Cold Weather

Health Risks Of Cold Weather

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Subzero temperatures can take a real toll on the body, so the American Heart Association is issuing a warning for those with heart conditions. The deep freeze puts people with heart issues at greater risk for heart attacks and heart failure.

Dr. Vojtech Slezka is a cardiologist at the New York Health Center in Watertown.

He says he sees a couple people every year who have had heart attacks from exerting themselves in the extreme cold, which includes shoveling.

"Every year we probably see at least one or two cases of people having heart attack and it is most often when they are doing something strenuous. And what is the direct empirical evidence is not completely clear, but the direct evidence suggests that it is a real problem," he said.

People with heart disease can suffer chest pain in cold weather. But it isn't just cold weather that can steal body heat. Rain, wind and snow have been known to take body heat away from those with coronary heart disease as well.

And it isn't just heart attacks that people need to look out for in the cold weather. According to the AHA, heart failure has been known to result from hypothermia.

Dr. Slezka says that those with hypothermia or frost bite tend to feel shaky and have an altered mental state and if someone has these symptoms, he or she should stay inside. And the effect that hypothermia has on the heart, he says, is indirect.

"It affects it indirectly mostly because it has an effect on vasculature, so it produces contraction of the arteries and consequently, however, cold on the heart and the inhalation of cold air can cause a reflex spasm of the arteries," he said.

Here are some tips for heart safety in the cold weather:

- avoid over exertion
- recognize the symptoms of hypothermia
- stay warm
- avoid alcohol before heading out

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