Gabe Mirkin, M.D.
Exercising in cold weather can cause chest pain in some people who have no problems when they exercise in warm weather. When cold wind blows on your face, your heart rate slows down. This decreases the blood flow to the heart and can cause pain in people with blocked coronary arteries.
The blood supply to your heart muscle comes from arteries on its outside surface. The blood that is pumped inside your heart's chambers brings almost no oxygen to your heart muscle. If you have arteriosclerosis, the fatty plaques in your heart's arteries restrict the flow of blood to your heart. Your heart has to pump rapidly to meet its needs for oxygen. A cold wind slows your heart, reducing the flow of blood. If the heart muscle is unable to get all the oxygen it needs, it starts to hurt.
While freezing your face slows your heart, freezing your fingers makes your heart beat faster. Cold hands will not cause chest pain, but a cold face can. If you have no history arteriosclerosis and have chest pain when you exercise in cold weather, check with your doctor to rule out possible heart problems. If you have heart trouble, it is always a good idea to cover your face when you go out on cold days. You can wear a scarf that you can wrap over your mouth, a knitted ski mask, or a hat with a visor that you can lower when the wind blows.