In the northern United States, cold weather can span from October through April and it’s not always greta for the health of your heart.
Surviving long, cold winters requires extra precautions for the estimated 100 million plus Americans who have high blood pressure also known as hypertension. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost one in three Americans have high blood pressure and need to be aware of the conditions to help them avoid more serious consequences.
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Cold temperatures can trigger a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure and other heart-related problems.
The main reasons that blood pressure is generally higher in the winter months are less physical activity due to being indoors longer, increased salt consumption because of more snacking and constrained blood vessels because of low temperatures.
“During cold weather, the body restricts blood flow in an effort to maintain temperature and retain heat,” said vascular surgeon David Stone, MD of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. “In return, the survival mechanism restricts blood movement and causes blood pressure to rise.”
If you reside in or are traveling to these cold weather areas, here are 10 steps you can take to help you manage your high blood pressure during the winter months:
- Minimize being outside –especially if you are elderly.
- Hire someone to shovel your driveway and walks.
- Avoid extreme exertion or heavy lifting.
- Dress in layers of wool, silk, or fleece clothing to maintain body heat.
- Always wearing a hat, scarf and gloves (mittens preferred) when outdoors to reduce loss of body heat.
- The Mayo Clinic recommends that you eat a well-balanced diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts and reduce salt consumption.
- Only consume moderate amounts of alcohol and caffeine
- Regularly check and monitor your blood pressure
- Don’t skip taking your medication
- Exercise indoors five times per week for 30 minutes
If your job requires prolonged exposure to cold, such as farming, construction, outdoor recreation etc. you should be particularly mindful of these precautions to help manage your hypertension. In some cases, you may need to find another job that will keep you indoors during the winter months.
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