Harvard Health Letter

Avoiding winter heart attacks

Minimize risks with simple solutions such as preventing overexertion and preparing for cold temperatures.

shoveling snow winter heart attacks
Image: Bigstock

As temperatures start to fall, your risk of a heart attack begins to climb. "Cold weather sometimes creates a perfect storm of risk factors for cardiovascular problems," says Dr. Randall Zusman, a cardiologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

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; as a result, your heart demands more oxygen-rich blood. Such a mismatch-a smaller supply of oxygen to the heart coupled with a greater demand for oxygen by the heart-sets you up for a heart attack.

Below, we summarize some of the many situations that can lead to heart attack during the colder months-and how to minimize them.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »