Healthy Hearts Need Activity in Winter Months

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 | 10:20am

TDH Offers Suggestions to Improve Heart Health

NASHVILLE – Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in Tennessee and among its primary causes are poor diets and a lack of adequate physical activity. The Tennessee Department of Health reminds individuals the winter months demand increased attention for heart health because short days and cold weather prompt many of us to crave comfy couches and calorie-rich, feel-good foods.    

“Sedentary living and an abundance of rich, comforting foods appeal to us when the temperatures drop and the nights are long,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “It’s important to understand we have inherited the survival tactics of conserving energy and eating differently during the winter months. We can change these responses at this time of year, seeking to guard our hearts with exercise and healthier food.”

In 2014, 15,197 Tennesseans died as a result of heart disease. For many of these individuals, changes in diet and exercise might have helped to prevent several key factors leading to heart problems. To reduce your risk of developing heart disease, TDH recommends the following:

  • Even moderate exercise indoors can make a difference when it’s too cold for outdoor activities. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily, five day each week. Consider walking in place while you are watching TV; a brisk walk in a heated community building or mall; walking up and down stairs in your home or workplace; using small hand weights or aerobic dancing.
  • Exercise can also help relieve stress, which can take its toll on the condition of your heart.  For some, it may also help reduce seasonal depression and improve how we process information and emotions.
  • Avoid high cholesterol foods that clog arteries and reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood your heart needs to perform its important work. For information about preventing or managing high cholesterol and foods to choose or avoid, visit
  • Those who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for high cholesterol. If you have not been able to lose weight on your own, ask your healthcare provider for suggestions on developing a weight loss program. Losing weight can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure and reduce risk for strokes and heart attacks.
  • Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. Statistics from the American Heart Association show nearly seven out of 10 people who are 65 or older with diabetes die from heart disease. The AHA also reports people with diabetes are more likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than people without diabetes. Exercise and diet are vital in preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes.
  • Knowing your heart disease risk is an important first step in preventing serious health problems. During annual physical examinations, your healthcare provider can assess how your heart is functioning and review bloodwork and other tests to see what improvements are most needed to prevent heart disease. 

“The heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle in your body, it needs regular exercise and proper nutrition to stay in good shape,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “It is a challenge for many of us to give our hearts the attention they need, especially when winter is here, but we can eat in moderation and exercise moderately to protect our hearts.”

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at