Winter and heart disease: What you should know

Health and Fitness, Topics
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The cold air and furious winds of winter do much more than cause runny noses and chapped lips.

The dip in temperature over the winter months can directly affect the heart and bring about symptoms of heart disease, especially during strenuous activities.

"This time of year can put significant strain on the heart, especially for those who might not know they are at-risk for heart disease or are just beginning to show symptoms," said Dr. Melissa Ianitelli, a cardiologist with McLaren Macomb. "Routine physical activities, like shoveling or even walking through wet snow, can cause symptoms related to underlying heart disease."

The low-light, chilly winter months send many seeking warmth indoors, leading to physical inactivity and increased risk for heart disease.

Additionally, the external cold air delivers less oxygen to the blood, which in turn delivers less oxygenated blood to the heart, putting more strain on the heart when needed most.

"It's imperative to consider your heart in the winter," Dr. Ianitelli said. "Moderate activity is key-you don't want to over exert yourself, but you shouldn't remain inactive. And it's crucial to pay attention to any heart disease symptoms, which can easily manifest this time of year."

She added that symptoms left untreated can become increasingly severe, potentially leading to a heart attack.

Warning signs of heart disease
"¢ Chest pain/discomfort/heaviness
"¢ Discomfort in arms, jaw, back, neck and stomach
"¢ Nausea, lightheadedness and sweating
"¢ Shortness of breath

To learn more or make an appointment with a McLaren Macomb cardiologist, visit