When the weather outside is frightful, it can also take a toll on your heart. Many people aren't conditioned to the physical stress of outdoor activities and don't know the dangers of being outdoors in cold weather, including hypothermia.
Hypothermia means the body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It happens when your body can't produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough, and it can even kill you. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness. Children, the elderly, and those with heart disease are at special risk.
As people age, their ability to maintain a normal internal body temperature often decreases. Because elderly people seem to be relatively insensitive to moderately cold conditions, they can suffer hypothermia without knowing they're in danger.
Keep in mind a few basic tips to keep warm and protect your heart. Start by wearing layers of clothing, which traps air between layers, forming a protective insulation. Also, wear a hat or headscarf. Heat can be lost through your head. And ears are especially prone to frostbite. Keep your hands and feet warm, too, as they tend to lose heat rapidly.
Don't drink alcoholic beverages before going outdoors or when outside. Alcohol gives an initial feeling of warmth, because blood vessels in the skin expand. Heat is then drawn away from the body's vital organs.