When you step outside during the cold winter months, you’re probably not thinking about whether the crisp air is affecting your heart.
But, would you be shocked to learn that breathing cold air can actually pose risks to your heart?
While cold air can feel refreshing and energizing, temperatures below 0°C can cause breathing difficulties that put a strain on your heart and other organs.
Thus, it’s important to understand how breathing cold air may affect you, and take the necessary precautions to stay safe.
Effects of Breathing Cold Air on the Heart
Cold air carries less oxygen than warm air, which can lead to breathing-related stress on the heart and strain on other organs including the lungs, as they work harder to get the same amount of oxygen as breathing in warm air.
In addition, breathing cold air in through your mouth can:
- Cause the heart’s coronary arteries to narrow
- Increase the risk of angina (chest pain)
- Increase the risk of blood clotting
Generally speaking, it is recommended that individuals with coronary heart disease take extra precaution in winter weather, as they are more prone to episodes of chest discomfort in colder conditions.
If you ever feel any breathing difficulty or discomfort in your chest, seek medical attention right away.
Hypothermia is a life-threatening condition that also presents risks to the heart. Learn how to recognize and treat hypothermia now.
Safety Tips for Breathing Cold Air
When breathing cold air, it’s important to practice caution and take preventative measures to protect your heart.
Here are a few tips for limiting cold air intake:
Wear multiple layers of clothing when you’re outdoors so your core body temperature remains steady. This will help reduce the strain on your heart and breathing.
Additionally, covering your mouth and nose with a scarf will help warm the air you breathe to further reduce breathing-related stress on your heart.
Avoid Strenuous Activities in Cold Weather
Although the reasons aren’t fully clear, the rate of heart attacks may be as much as 30% higher in the winter.
Breathing cold air affects even the healthiest of hearts when simply stepping outside, let alone exercising or performing other feats of outdoor endurance.
Any physical activity in cold temperatures can increase the workload for your heart, so it’s best to avoid strenuous activities in cold weather. If these types of activities cannot be avoided, ensure you are taking breaks to give your body time to acclimatize and let your breathing to regulate.
Staying properly hydrated helps keep your breathing passages open, which will make breathing easier in cold air.
Get Enough Rest
Getting enough rest will help ensure that your body is healthy and strong enough to handle breathing in colder temperatures.
By taking these precautionary measures, you can protect your heart when breathing cold air.
Though it may surprise you that breathing cold air can impact the heart, breathing-related stress on the cardiovascular system is very real.
To prevent these risks, it is important to take the proper precautions when the temperatures fall below 0°C, such as wearing breathable face coverings when exposed to cold temperatures and wind chill, avoiding strenuous outdoor exercise, and staying hydrated.
Home is where the heart is, so don’t forget to get an In-Home AED!