Tips for heart-healthy winter workouts

These simple safety precautions can protect your heart during the cold winter months

winter workout BlogIt’s a new year, and with it come resolutions to get fit through diet and exercise. But outdoor winter workouts call for a few safety precautions. Heart patients, in particular, need to take extra care, but everyone about to begin an outdoor workout routine should follow these safety tips. And be sure to check with your healthcare professional prior to starting any exercise program.

Heart-healthy tips

  • Avoid outdoor exercise or physical activity in extreme temperatures, generally below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose an indoor workout when the temps dip this low.
  • Dress in layers, which will help to trap warm air, and then remove layers as necessary if you warm up.
  • Wear sunscreen (a minimum of SPF 30) year-round.
  • Protect all areas of your skin — especially the head, face, ears, feet and hands — from exposure to the cold, which can result in frostbite.
  • Shield your face and mouth with a scarf or mask to warm up cold air before breathing it in. Cold air can cause vasoconstriction (a narrowing of the width) of arteries in the heart. Narrowing of blood vessels due to the cold can cause a significant increase in blood pressure. Breathing in cold air can also cause constricted airways.
  • Always do a 5- to 10-minute warm-up to get your heart and muscles prepared for more intense exercise. A slow- or moderate-paced walk is ideal.
  • Wear sturdy footwear with good traction and watch out for icy patches.
  • Carry a cell phone with you and keep it in a warm place to protect it from getting damaged in the cold.
  • If possible, bring a workout buddy with you to keep you accountable and to help in case of an emergency.

If you have a chronic heart condition, be familiar with your symptoms and monitor yourself during your workout. If you find outdoor exercise difficult, try lowering your intensity. And if you feel new symptoms, stop your workout and seek medical attention.


Jennifer LeFresne

Jennifer LeFresne is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation at the Cardiovascular Medicine Clinic at Domino’s Farms. She earned her master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in exercise physiology and bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. Her professional interests include: patient and family centered care, technology and design in healthcare, patient education and student development.


Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at

Heart of a Hunter: Easy things to do to protect the heart

Excitement and physical exertion of hunting can be intense

In just a few weeks, Michigan’s regular firearm season begins and tens of thousands of #1BlogImageV2.fw
camouflaged hunters will head for the woods and shorelines.

For some hunters, heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests can be brought on by the strenuous exercise and dramatic bursts of activity that hunting can bring.

Fortunately, hunters can take steps now to protect themselves from heart dangers later this fall – and to make sure they’ll know what to do if a fellow hunter goes down.

Some of the easiest things to do right away include:

  • Getting a pre-hunt medical checkup, with special attention to the heart for those who have had heart problems in the past
  • Starting a daily walking routine or other exercise regimen in the weeks before hitting the woods
  • Learning CPR and first aid

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Men’s heart health tips

Develop good habits early for a healthy heart later in life

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Adopting healthy habits at a young age can pay off as you age.

As we age, the stakes get higher for coronary artery disease (CAD). A man in his 70s has a higher risk of developing CAD than a man in his 20s. But CAD does not occur overnight.

Even at 20 years old, you can affect what happens to you and your heart health when you are older. Having an appropriate health maintenance exam to define your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and other cardiac risk factors is very important for heart health.

The role genetics plays

The single biggest risk factor for developing CAD is genetics. A person (man or woman) who has a family history of early-age CAD (usually defined as 55 or younger) needs to be extremely diligent about his or her heart health.

Even though you can’t change genetics, there are certain genetic risk factors that can be modified — and the earlier you start, the better. Continue reading

Effects of caffeine on heart health

How much is safe?

A cup of joe may be good for you, but don’t fall for the bull. The Red Bull, that is.

About half of U.S. adults age 20 or older are coffee drinkers. Coffee is the principal source of caffeine in this country, in addition to tea and soft drinks. Because it is a stimulant, the effects of caffeine on heart health are constantly being studied.

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Overall, the findings have shown that moderate coffee drinking of 1-2 cups per day is likely not harmful. Some studies have even shown beneficial effects of having up to 4 cups of coffee or tea, including reduced risk of heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke and type 2 diabetes; improvements in blood pressure; and reductions in all-cause mortality. However, the extent to which caffeine plays a role in these protective effects is still unclear. Coffee and tea are known to have high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which protect the body’s cells and tissue like blood vessels and heart muscle. Therefore, more studies are needed to distinguish the benefits of the antioxidants from the effects of the caffeine. Continue reading

Blood pressure apps for your smart phone

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month

There's an app for everything, including monitoring your blood pressure!According to the American Heart Association, 28 percent of Americans have high blood pressure and don’t know it. Monitoring blood pressure has never been easier, thanks to new apps designed for that specific purpose. With one in three adults worldwide diagnosed with high blood pressure (according to the World Health Organization), tracking blood pressure is critically important to help prevent heart attack and stroke.

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Health apps for your smartphone

Track your BMI & medications, check your heart rate


Smartphone apps let you track heart rate, blood pressure, meds/doses and BMI.

Fifty-eight percent of American adults today own a smartphone, according to a recent study by Pew Research Center. This means more than half the U.S. adult population is equipped to monitor vital health numbers and track medications via health apps designed for smartphones.

The healthcare professionals at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center Mardigian Wellness Resource Center included the following on their list of health apps for your smartphone compiled to help patients and families improve cardiovascular health. Continue reading