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3 Surprising Things That Will Increase Your Blood Pressure This Winter

The blustery winds and freezing temperatures of winter can create all sorts of health problems, such as the flu, asthma attacks, RSV, and the common cold. But did you know that your blood pressure also rises in the winter?

Unless holiday stress takes its toll, you might not think about your blood pressure. However, frigid Pennsylvania winters, shoveling snow, and winter dehydration can put you at greater risk for the complications that come with high blood pressure, like heart disease and stroke.

Keep reading to learn more about why blood pressure increases in the winter, the importance of monitoring your blood pressure, and how vybe urgent care can help.

1. Cold weather

Low temperatures cause your blood vessels to temporarily narrow, requiring more pressure to force blood through the thinner veins and arteries. The constriction of blood vessels is your body’s natural response to cold temperatures. The reaction helps minimize heat loss from the warm blood to help keep your body warm. Sudden changes in atmospheric pressure, wind, and other weather conditions can have a similar effect, especially in people aged 65 and older.

The heart is already the hardest-working muscle in your body. When cold weather diminishes the heart’s supply of oxygen-rich blood, your chances of having a heart attack or another cardiovascular issue can greatly increase.

What can you do about it?

The warmer your body is, the better your blood flow will be. You can help reduce cold weather-related spikes in blood pressure by:

  • Going indoors frequently to warm up
  • Wearing warm clothing that maintains your body heat (avoid wearing clothes that are too tight, which can constrict your blood flow)
  • Not overexerting yourself during outdoor activities
  • Seeking healthcare immediately if you experience blurred vision or pain in your arms, legs, or chest

2. Shoveling snow

Research shows that shoveling snow and running on the treadmill generate nearly the same heart rate in a group of young adult men – and between the two activities, shoveling snow causes a higher increase in blood pressure. Shoveling snow is even more dangerous for middle-aged and older adults, especially those with compromised hearts.

Every year, about 100 people (mostly men) experience sudden cardiac arrest during or after shoveling snow.

What can you do about it?

Before you pick up the snow shovel, think again. Doctor recommendations for when to stop shoveling snow range from ages 45 to 55, depending on the person’s blood pressure history and heart attack risk. Pairing cold air with the intense exertion of shoveling – especially if the snow is wet or heavy – can be a deadly combination for anyone with pre-existing heart trouble.

If you do shovel snow, use a shovel with a plastic blade instead of a heavier metal blade. Try pushing the snow with your shovel instead of lifting and throwing it. You should also shovel your sidewalk or driveway in portions instead of all at once. Be sure to take plenty of breaks, and watch for warning signs such as chest pain, lightheadedness, or heart palpitations.

3. Winter dehydration

Since your body doesn’t get as hot during the winter and sweat evaporates faster in cold air, it’s easy to assume that you’re properly hydrated. However, winter dehydration is still a very real risk. Can you see your own breath in the air? Your body is actually losing water vapor every time you breathe.

In cold weather, your body’s thirst response is greatly diminished (as much as 40 percent) due to your constricted blood vessels. Your kidneys may also conserve less water and increase your urine production, a condition known as cold-induced urine diuresis.

What can you do about it?

The best way to prevent winter dehydration is by drinking plenty of fluids. Drinking at least eight cups of water every day – carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day can help you achieve this goal. Be sure to drink more water if you’re being physically active (hello, snowball fight!).

If you find it challenging to drink plain water, you can stay hydrated by drinking water infused with slices of fruit, smoothies made with fruits and vegetables, or low-sodium soups – perfect for a cold winter day.

Why monitoring your blood pressure is so important

Nearly one in every two U.S. adults has high blood pressure, and only one of every four has it under control.

Measuring your blood pressure on a regular basis is the only way to know if you have high blood pressure. As we all make our way through another cold Philadelphia winter, you can count on the licensed medical professionals at vybe to help you monitor your blood pressure.

All vybe urgent care locations offer blood pressure screenings and can provide you with a personalized treatment plan if you experience high blood pressure or other related issues. If you’re concerned about your heart health, we also offer full-service EKGs for your convenience.

Visit vybe today

You don’t have to wonder if your blood pressure is on the rise – our urgent care centers are open seven days a week, with extended weekday evening hours. So, bundle up! vybe can help you keep your blood pressure under control this winter and all year long.