For many, the cooler temperatures of winter are a welcome break from the heat of summer. However, cold weather can put an additional strain on your heart, especially if you engage in some of the more strenuous winter activities. Here’s how to keep your heart healthy when the temperature drops.

Take frequent breaks

Be kind to your heart and body; take breaks often. The more strenuous the activity, the more often you need to stop and rest. This will help keep you from overtaxing your heart. Exercise is great for your heart and body, but powering through a high-intensity or strenuous exercise could do more harm than good.

Warm up and stretch

This should be a part of your workout all year round, but it is even more important during cooler weather, which can cause your muscles to be tighter than usual. Ease your body into your workout by doing some stretches to loosen your muscles. Also, get your blood flowing with a warm-up activity, like jumping jacks, before you venture outdoors.

Dress in layers

Staying warm is important, and layering your clothing is the best way to keep your body’s heat from escaping. Several thin layers provide insulation against the elements and will help keep you warmer. Start with a fabric that wicks away moisture so you don’t feel damp when you sweat. Avoid cotton because it traps moisture and will leaving you feeling chilly. Top your outfit off with thin, waterproof material as the outer layer.

Avoid alcohol and heavy meals prior to your workout

Alcohol can make you feel warmer and cause you to misjudge the amount of strain you are putting on your heart and body. A heavy meal can also increase the load on your heart, making it work harder. If you are about to work out or just finished a workout, avoid these things for about one hour to give your body a chance to return to normal stasis.

If you or a loved one are living with a heart rhythm disorder such as atrial fibrillation, contact Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. Dr. Dilip Mathew is Board Certified in Cardiology & Cardiac Electrophysiology and has been serving patients in Sarasota and surrounding cities including Port Charlotte, Venice, Tampa, and Sun City Center for over a decade.