WEDNESDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- You probably know from experience that winter brings a surge in colds and flu. But did you know winter is also the season for heart attacks?
Frigid air causes blood vessels to constrict as the body tries to prevent heat loss, said Dr. Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
"This is a natural response that can also put people with heart conditions and those involved in strenuous exercise at greater risk of having a heart attack," Anderson said.
The narrowing raises blood pressure and can reduce oxygen flow to the heart. Combined with a strenuous activity, such as shoveling snow, this can strain the heart, triggering a heart attack in those at risk.
Symptoms of a heart attack may include pain, discomfort or a squeezing sensation in the chest, pain in the arms, back, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, nausea or a cold sweat, according to the American Heart Association. Though women may also experience pain, they are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting and back or jaw pain
A heart attack can be mistaken for a pulled muscle, so take any post-shoveling symptoms seriously.
To lessen your risk of winter-time heart trouble, Anderson has these suggestions:
The American Heart Association has more on cold weather and heart attacks.
SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center news release, December 2009