If your sidewalk or driveway needs shoveling this winter, hire a kid from the neighborhood to do it for you or use a snow blower. Or, if you must shovel, push rather than lift the snow as much as possible, stay warm and take frequent breaks.
· New Year’s resolutions: Every Jan. 1, millions of people join gyms or start exercise programs as part of their New Year’s resolution to get in shape, and many overexert themselves too soon. If you’re starting a new exercise program this winter, take the time to talk to your doctor about what types and how much exercise may be appropriate for you.
· Winter weight gain: People tend to eat and drink more and gain more weight during the holiday season and winter months, all of which are hard on the heart and risky for someone with heart disease. So keep a watchful eye on your diet this winter and avoid binging on fatty foods and alcohol.
· Shorter days: Less daylight in the winter months can cause many people to develop “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD, a wintertime depression that can stress the heart. Studies also have looked at heart attack patients and found they usually have lower levels of vitamin D (which comes from sunlight) than people with healthy hearts.
To boost your vitamin D this winter, consider taking a supplement that contains between 1,000 and 2,000 international units (IU) per day. And to find treatments for SAD, visit the Center for Environmental Therapeutics website at cet.org.
· Flu season: Studies show that people who get flu shots have a lower heart attack risk. It’s known that the inflammatory reaction set off by a flu infection can increase blood clotting, which can lead to heart attacks in vulnerable people. So if you haven’t already done so, get a flu shot for protection. See flushot.healthmap.org to find a vaccination site.