Goodbye to those record-setting warm weeks of early January. An arctic blast is expected to plunge temperatures to below normal east of the Rockies. For many of us in the north, extreme cold is an inconvenience experienced while dashing from a warm home to the shelter of a car, but every year a staggering 1,330 Americans freeze to death.
Not all of them are trapped in the mountains during a snowstorm. While you are more likely to freeze in a rural area, many people die in urban landscapes as well. The homeless suffer, as do those in inadequate housing. Health officials worry that the exact number of cold-related deaths is under-reported since low temperatures can cause heart and respiratory problems as well as hypothermia most often associated with freezing to death. Tragically, some victims are children who fall through ice or get lost in residential snowbanks.
There is some good news, though. You can freeze until your heart stops and still be revived if you receive help in time. Justin Smith, a 26-year-old college student, had a few beers with friends in Pennsylvania and later passed out while walking home in sub-zero temperatures. Although he didn’t have a pulse or detectable heartbeat when he was discovered the next morning, medics were able to revive the lucky young man.
Some see the benefits of freezing our bodies on purpose. Dropping blood temperatures can help heart patients, premature babies and athletes. One study found that runners using cryotherapy — which are basically ice cold baths — had less inflammation than runners who stayed warm and dry.
Although it seems like science fiction, some people choose to be frozen after death in the hope they can later be revived in the future, when there may be a cure for whatever killed them. After all, frogs can be frozen for 7 months and still come out hopping after a careful thaw. The process is called Cryopreservation and it’s has been around since the 1960s, with no revivals yet. The most famous person who has been cryopreserved is baseball great Ted Williams. But don’t wait up for Walt Disney. Despite persistent rumors, he was not frozen but interred.