Doctors say weaker hearts more vulnerable in cold weather

Cold weather can affect arteries, may lead to heart attack

As the weather gets colder, people with weaker hearts are at greater risk of heart attack
As the weather gets colder, people with weaker hearts are at greater risk of heart attack

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Now that the weather is getting cold, cardiologists have a health warning that could impact people with weaker hearts.

St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside cardiologist Dr. Anthony Magnano said the cold weather can affect some people’s arteries and leave them vulnerable to a heart attack.

Magnano said the cold weather brings a risk to heart health primarily because of what your body has to do to keep warm.

“When the blood vessels constrict to keep the warmth inside of our body, it also spikes our blood pressure,” Magnano said. “It puts a strain on the heart -- a hypertensive emergency. There’s also exacerbation of heart failure or myocardial infarction.” Essentially, a heart attack.

Magnano said a heart registry calculates that 53 percent more heart attacks happen during cold weather. He added that the most at-risk group of people are those with weak hearts.

“You want to think about people the most with existing heart conditions,” Magnano said. “They’re going to be the most at risk. People with multiple cardiac risk factors, diabetes, hypertensive, high cholesterol and also the elderly, are a key population.”

Magnano recommends that people weaker hearts stay inside when they can, try to stay bundled up and avoid exercising in the cold if not accustomed to doing it already, which can bring an added risk.

“We’ve observed this for a while during winter months,” Magnano said. “There are more heart attacks, and the shorter days play a role, but certainly the cold weather is widely considered to be a key reason for this.”

Magnano said the reason why the elderly are more at risk, even if they’re in good health, is that their bodies have a harder time keeping their core temperature up, and that can overwork the heart.

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