By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Staying safe in this winter blast can be a challenge.
It’s slippery, the snow is piling up and people are stressed. These are the kinds of conditions that increase the risk for heart attacks.
City of Philadelphia officials say there has been a dramatic increase in the number of calls to the emergency center. People are falling, they are having trouble breathing, which is a sign of the heart attack. Then tonight there will be a lot of snow to shovel.
Our newest blast of snow and then arctic cold are expected to increase heart attacks. Being outside can be dangerous.
“Your heart is working extra hard to keep you warm and keep you pumping.”
Doctors say the uptick in heart attacks and strokes in wintry weather is particularly from the cold thickening blood and constricting blood vessels.
“Just exposure to cold weather increases the work of the heart significantly,” Dr. Fancis Redican, Cardiologist said.
In studies, blood tests on healthy volunteers exposed to cold weather showed increases in circulating levels of hormones that make the blood clot, and stress hormones, like adrenalin.
“And when those things go up, your blood vessels are more likely to clamp down,” Dr. Redican said.
One study showed heart attack risk went up by 7 percent for every 20 degree drop in temperature.
Any kind of exertion like shoveling increases the risk of heart attacks especially for cardiac patients, the elderly, and those who aren’t in good shape.
Dr. Peter Sananman is an emergency department physician at Penn Medicine.
“We do see often time with snow storms heart attack when people go out to shovel the snow,” Dr. Sananman said.
If you are outside shoveling tonight, take it slow, it really can be a big workout especially if you are not in shape. If there is any good news it is that this is light fluffy snow, not that wet heavy kind.
But one thing, once you get the snow out of the way, there is ice down here, it is slippery. So be extra careful outside, and take it easy.