Here, we look at how cold weather can literally be a killer.
As we enter Canada’s deep freeze, it’s important to be aware of how extreme cold temperatures affects the cardiovascular system — even if you’re not shoveling snow, which can be a killer.
“It has been shown by many, many studies that there are more heart attacks in the December-January time frame,” Dr. Samin Sharma, cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told Accuweather.
While intense cardio exercise itself puts a strain on the heart, cold weather exertion can even put an otherwise healthy person at risk, Dr. Sharma suggests, because cold causes arteries to constrict.
“Cold weather sometimes creates a perfect storm of risk factors for cardiovascular problems,” says Dr. Randall Zusman, a cardiologist with Massachusetts General Hospital, in a report from Harvard Medical School.
Many of these risks stem from what Dr. Zusman calls a “mismatch between supply and demand.”
Cold weather can decrease the supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle. And it can put you in situations that force your heart to work harder, resulting in a demand for even more oxygen-rich blood.
This mismatch — a smaller supply of oxygen to the heart coupled with a greater demand for oxygen by the heart — can be a set-up for a heart attack.
Also, cortisone levels fluctuate in colder weather, causing platelets to become “sticky,” Dr. Sharma said.