Colder Temperatures Can Affect Your Blood Pressure

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
October 2, 2023
Man scraping down icy windshield

With winter less than two months away, now is a good time to prepare yourself for colder temperatures, especially if you have health conditions affected by lower temperatures.

Circulation, in particular, can be impacted by winter weather. Colder air narrows blood vessels in your toes, fingers and skin, causing heat loss. In turn, the heart works harder to pump blood throughout the body to maintain your body temperature. And when it does, it also raises the heart rate and blood pressure.

This can be a real problem if you already have hypertension. Blood pressure, specifically the systolic pressure (top number) rises during with winter months compared to the summer months, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2023.

“These results don’t surprise me,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Previous studies found that blood pressure fluctuates throughout day and has seasonal variations.”

Researchers analyzed electronic medical records of more than 60,000 American adults under treatment for high blood pressure. The average of age of participants was 62, just over half identified as white and almost 60 percent were female.

The records were collected from six health care centers located in the southeast and midwestern U.S. between 2018 and 2023. Blood pressures taken between December and February were classified as winter, while blood pressures taken between June and August were considered summer.

Results showed a 1.7 mm Hg rise in systolic blood pressures during the winter months, compared to the summer months. They also found a five percent decrease in blood pressure management over during the summer.  

“The results may seem slight, but it contributes to a much bigger picture,” says Kaminetsky. “The coldest winter months raise the risk for a heart attack by 30 percent.”

Poorly controlled blood pressure is a leading cause of emergency department visits. It’s a major risk factor for heart disease, the global leading cause of death. And it can damage the brain, kidneys, eyes and sexual function.

Almost 50 percent of American adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association’s 2023 Statistical Update. The good news is you can help control blood pressure by adjusting your lifestyle.

Try these seven measures to help manage your blood pressure in colder temperatures:

  • Live a heart healthy lifestyle. This can help control your blood pressure. 
  • Maintain your body heat. Dress in layers and wear scarfs, gloves and hats while outdoors.
  • Limit strenuous activities to the indoors. If you must perform a strenuous activity outdoors, go slowly.
  • Sit outside for a while before beginning any physical activity. This can help your body acclimate to the weather.
  • Lower caffeine and alcohol intake.  Both contribute to lower body temperatures.
  • Monitor your blood pressure regularly. This will help you track how it fluctuates during the day.
  • Follow your physician’s advice. Make sure you’re taking medications your doctor has prescribed.

“Most importantly, work with your doctor to help manage your blood pressure,” says Kaminetsky.

If you don’t have a doctor, consider joining an MDVIP-affiliated practice. MDVIP-affiliated doctors can help you live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »


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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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