With temperatures plunging to zero or below over the next couple of days in our area the American Heart Association warns residents to protect their hearts.  The AHA reminds people that extremely cold weather can put added stress on the body and specifically the heart.

Deaths from coronary artery disease tend to increase rapidly in the cold winter months.  Hypothermia can trigger heart failure.  Hypothermia occurs when the body cannot produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough, causing it to fall below normal.  Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia.

Sudden exertion in excessively cold weather can trigger a heart attack.  The Heart Association reminds everyone to use caution when shoveling snow.  Bending over and lifting heavy snow puts added stress on the cardiovascular system and can trigger heart attack and stroke.

Walking through deep, heavy snow can also put added strain on the heart.  The added stress can trigger chest pain or discomfort called angina pectoris.  The American Heart Association advises you to wear layers of clothing to keep warm when outdoors.  Stay away from alcohol use when heading outdoors.  Alcohol expands blood vessels in the skin and draws heat away from the body's vital organs.  This can lead to hypothermia.

For more information about heart health and minimizing the risk of heart attack and stroke when dealing with harsh, winter weather the American Heart Association website address is: www.heart.org.