A person wearing gloves holds a heart-shaped snowball.
Be careful with your ticker when temperatures plummet. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Winter is here and isn’t leaving anytime soon.

That means it is time to take precautions when exercising or spending any length of time outside.

We asked Thomas Boyden, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group preventive cardiologist, for tips on keeping your heart healthy during this time of year.

“Individuals with a known heart condition or heart disease should be particularly careful when shoveling snow or breathing in cold air during the winter,” Dr. Boyden said.

Five tips for helping your heart stay healthy and warm this winter:

  1. If you have any questions or concerns before engaging in outdoor winter activities, consult your physician first.
  2. Wrap a scarf around your mouth and nose so the cold air is warmed before it reaches your lungs. This eases strain on both your heart and lungs.
  3. Limit shoveling to the level of activity you are already used to. If you haven’t been active for months, don’t engage in this vigorous, weight-bearing activity. Too much exertion increases the risk of a heart-related episode.
  4. If you feel any tightness or pain in your chest, stop shoveling or walking in the cold and seek medical attention.
  5. Try to maintain your exercise routine throughout the winter by finding warm, indoor places to walk such as the mall, health club or senior center.

This advice isn’t just for people with a known heart condition, Dr. Boyden said. A long, cold winter can be challenging for otherwise healthy people as well.

Bundle up, stay active and be smart when it comes to winter heart health.