William Suddath, an interventional cardiologist at Washington Hospital Center, says the combination of cold air and exertion is conducive to heart attack and sudden cardiac death. When I spoke with him last week, he said his hospital had seen "a significant rise in the number of patients helicoptered [or otherwise transported] to the ER in the past week or 10 days" for heart attacks or sudden deaths related to the snow. Making matters worse, weather-related gridlock can prevent emergency vehicles from reaching victims in a timely manner, Suddath said. So keeping someone alive with CPR could really make a difference.
Find a class near you on the American Heart Association's Web site. Do it for someone you love.
So long, chest strap
Heart-rate monitors deliver important information, but they can be complicated to use and a pain to wear while exercising. The new ePulse2 ($130 on Amazon.com) fixes that: You strap it around your forearm, where it reads your pulse by monitoring the blood moving through the big veins there. You can program it to calculate calories burned and other data - all without a chest strap. I'd rather get one of these for Valentine's Day than a big box of chocolates. Find more information at www.impactsports.com.
When you exercise or shovel snow, the American Heart Association recommends that you stay between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, which you can estimate by subtracting your age from the 220. So, if you're 50 like me, your maximum heart rate is 170 beats per minute.
Free tai chi
The precise, slo-mo poses of the Chinese martial arts practice of tai chi has been shown to help reduce hypertension, a key contributor to cardiovascular disease. The T'ai Chi Ch'uan Study Center offers free classes every Saturday morning in McLean (8 to 9 a.m., St. Luke Catholic Church School, 7005 Georgetown Pike Route 193). The sessions are indoors through March, then move outdoors to McLean Central Park on April 2. Call 703-759-9141 or visit www.taichicenter.com.
If you're up for more of a commitment, try Body Balance Healing Arts in Clarksburg. The first class is free; after that, you'll talk with owner and master instructor Pat Hancock to work out a year-long program of study. (Most people end up paying about $157 a month for two classes per week.) There's a beginners' class Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. (15211 Comus Rd.). Call 301-972-5644 or visit www.taichikungfu.com.
Another option is Capitol Hill Tai Chi, which offers a class every Saturday morning (weather permitting) from 8 to 10 a.m. at Lincoln Park (11th and East Capitol Street SE) for $50 a month. Call 202-544-6035 or visit www.capitolhilltaichi.com.
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