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Cold weather and heart rate: 6 tips to help keep your heart warm this winter

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What’s more heartwarming in the wintertime than struggling up close to the fireplace, drinking a cup of hot cocoa while watching your favorite movie? Well, how about going for a run or hike in fresh, mountain snow, or taking a walk on your neighborhood parkway as snowflakes flutter down upon your eyelashes?

While wintery terrain may give you cold feet, it’s all warm and fuzzy when it comes to your heart. And here are six tips to help keep your heart warm this winter.

1. Winterize it

Cold weather can put a large strain on the heart, especially if you aren’t used to it. Cold temperatures cause your blood vessels and arteries to shrink, restricting blood flow and reducing oxygen to the heart. Due to this, your heart has to pump harder to move the blood through the narrowed vessels. When this happens, your blood pressure and heart rate increase.

And as we know, a sudden spike in blood pressure – especially when paired with outdoor exertion, can have scary, even life threatening consequences.

In order to avoid this, make sure that your heart is in good shape before winter by implementing a regular cardiovascular exercise regimen well before the winter months.

2. Dress appropriately

You wouldn’t wear a winter coat, gloves and hat in the middle of summer for the simple reason that it would cause your body to overheat. The same principle applies to wintertime. Shorts and a tank out in the freezing cold would cause your body temperature to plummet.

By dressing appropriately in moisture wicking layers with your head and hands covered, you will be able to last a lot longer out there in the cold, and your heart rate will be less variable.

3. Warm up

Temperature extremes are not good for the cardiovascular system. Both the extremes of heat and cold can cause changes in the body that may have lasting negative effects and could even lead to death.

This is why it is important to warm up before entering the cold so you can to get your heart pumping blood, easing the transition as you acclimate to the weather. Doing so will also lessen the shock to your cardiovascular system.

4. Drink fluids

Drinking plenty of water helps the heart pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles more easily, according to the American Heart Association. Simply put, if you’re hydrated, your heart won’t need to work as hard.

And while you won’t sweat as much in the cold because your body is keeping water in to keep your body temperature up, rather than using it to cool you off, you still do sweat. Plus, the air that we breathe in the wintertime has less moisture in it, and our lungs need to use the water in our bodies to moisturize it, according to an Dr. Steven T. Devor – Director of Performance Physiology for MIT and OhioHealth.

So, continue to drink your water, and lots of it!

5. Eat heart healthy foods

Along with drinking plenty of water, it is important to eat heart healthy foods like fish, nuts, berries, and green vegetables to make sure that your heart is in tip-top shape as you exercise during the cold, winter months.

6. Know your limits and listen to your body

Exercising outdoors is awesome because you get to experience this time of year the best possible way. However, with extreme temperatures brings risks both to your heart and body. If you begin to shiver, it is time to bring things indoors because this is the first sign of hypothermia.

And there is nothing wrong with exercising in a temperature regulated room. Nothing at all.

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