With frigid cold hitting metro Detroit, the American Heart Association says it is important to know the cold can affect the heart, especially if you have cardiovascular disease.

Children, the elderly and those with heart disease are at special risk. People with coronary heart disease often suffer angina pectoris (chest pain or discomfort) when they're in cold weather. Some studies suggest that harsh winter weather may increase a person's risk of heart attack due to overexertion.

  • People who are outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person's heart.
  • Winter sports enthusiasts who don't take certain precautions can suffer accidental hypothermia. It occurs when your body can't produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough.
  • It can kill you. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia.
  • Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness. Seek help and call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • To keep warm, wear layers of clothing. This traps air between layers, forming a protective insulation. Also, wear a hat or head scarf. Heat can be lost through your head. Keep your hands and feet warm.
  • 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.
  • Learn CPR. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Hands-only CPR makes it easier than ever to save a life. If an adult suddenly collapses, call 9-1-1 and begin pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest until help arrives.