Tips for a heart-healthy winter

Monday, January 18, 2016

By: Dr. David Mathias

Winter can offer loads of fun, physical activities for all ages – sledding, skiing, ice skating and more – while also requiring occasional participation in activities that aren’t so fun – shoveling, shoveling and more shoveling.


One thing that should remain consistent, no matter the season, is for people in Northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to engage in heart-friendly lifestyle choices, says Aurora BayCare cardiologist Dr. David Mathias.


“Unfortunately, it’s very easy over the winter months to fall into a sedentary lifestyle,” he said. “Try hard to avoid this. Skip lounging in front of the TV and do something active. If it’s too cold outside, get active inside. Dust off the treadmill and walk for 30 minutes, do your routine housework with a little more vigor. There’s so much you can do to stay active in winter and protect against cardiovascular disease.”


Be active, be cautious

Mathias, however, cautions heart patients regarding cold weather and efforts to stay active.


“Heart patients need to take extra measures to maintain their health during the frigid temperatures,” he said. “Cardiovascular incidents tend to spike during the winter thanks to temperature drops that constrict blood vessels, irregular workout routines, poor stress management over the holiday season, and changing eating habits – we tend to overeat in winter.”


There are many things the general public can do to ensure its collective heart health during the winter months. Mathias offers the following general tips:

  • Layer it up: Want to feel better insulated against the cold? Dress in layers. It does a better job insulating your body against cold than simply wearing one large coat.
  • Start with a warm up: Stretching and engaging in light activity before heading out to shovel, exercise, or any other more strenuous physical activities will prepare your body for the rigors of snow removal – or downhill sledding.
  • Control salt, alcohol intake: Keep your heart healthy all year long by keeping your salt and alcohol intake in check. Doing so during winter is especially important.
  • Listen to your body: Think you might be feeling the symptoms of a heart attack? Call an ambulance. If you are a heart patient, make sure you undergo regular preventive checkups.
  • Push it: Push the snow rather than lifting it. It’s less strenuous. In addition, remember to take frequent breaks while shoveling. You’ll give your muscles, especially your heart, a chance to relax.
  • Doctor knows best: If you are over 50 years of age, overweight, out of shape or have had a heart attack before, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before shoveling snow or increasing your physical activity levels.

Enjoy a heart-healthy winter

In addition to the proceeding tips, Mathias advises eating a wide variety of foods to get the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients the body needs for optimal health.


“Eating right can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which ultimately protects your heart,” he said. “Follow these basic tips and you’ll be better positioned to enjoy a heart-healthy winter.”

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.