Here’s how to stay safe from the raised heart risks cold weather may bring.

Effingham, IL – With colder temperatures coming this winter, your heart may need extra TLC. That’s because wintry weather, especially temperatures near or below freezing, makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm.

That extra stress may help explain why cold weather is linked to raised heart risks. It’s also why cold weather plus strenuous exercise can be the perfect storm for heart attacks.

Be heart smart
To protect your heart, get a green light from your doctor before you exert yourself in cold conditions if you:

  • Have heart disease or another medical problem.
  • Don’t exercise much.
  • Are middle-aged or older.

A doctor’s OK is especially important before you pick up a show shovel. Assuming you get a thumbs-up for shoveling, you should still take some precautions.

“Prepare your body,” Dr. Jessica Prange, a cardiologist with Prairie Cardiovascular in Effingham. “Warm up your muscles with 10 minutes of light exercise. Also be sure to clear snow early and often – moving heavy, packed snow raises the risk of an injury or overtaxing your heart.”

Here are a few other tips for shoveling snow:

  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow—it’s lighter.
  • Push snow rather than lift it.
  • Pace yourself and take frequent breaks.
  • Never shovel to the point of exhaustion.

Roll up your sleeve
Winter is usually the peak flu season. With rare exceptions, everyone 6 months and older needs a yearly flu vaccine to protect themselves. That protection is crucial if you have heart disease, since the flu can make it worse.

The time to get vaccinated is before the flu season starts—ideally by the end of October. But getting vaccinated later, even into January, can still be beneficial. The flu can still spread, even in May.

Heart disease and stroke patients should also get vaccinated against pneumonia unless they’ve had a bad reaction or allergy to the vaccine.

Be mindful of medicine
If you do come down with the flu or a cold this winter, check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medicines. Some may raise your blood pressure and be risky if you have heart disease or heart failure.

If you are concerned about your heart health, Prairie Cardiovascular has physicians and providers in Effingham to partner with you. To learn more about the doctors of Prairie in Effingham, call 888-4PRAIRIE or visit www.Prairieheart.org.

Sources: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Safety Council

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About Prairie Heart Institute of Illinois

The Prairie Heart Institute of Illinois (PHII) is a community-based network of hospitals that offers cardiovascular programs staffed by the nationally recognized Prairie Cardiovascular, the largest group of cardiologists in the tri-state region. Because of the Prairie Education and Research Consortium (PERC), network hospitals of PHII also have access to drugs and treatments not widely available. The network hospitals of PHII offer the highest level of cardiovascular care possible in their communities. When more specialized care is needed, it is available in Springfield, O’Fallon or Carbondale.