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Cold Wave & Heat Wave Both Harmful: How To Protect Heart From Extreme Weathers

Extreme heat and extreme cold can both be dangerous for your heart. So what should one do to protect their heart?

Updated
Fit
4 min read
Cold Wave & Heat Wave Both Harmful: How To Protect Heart From Extreme Weathers
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Did you know that heart attacks are more common in winters?

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, data from 27 countries showed that extreme weather of any kind – be it cold waves or heat waves – can cause heart problems.

Last week, at least 22 people died in a span of 24 hours, with nearly 100 deaths within a week, in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur due to cardiac diseases alone.

So, what can be done to protect our heart from during these extreme events? FIT reached out to senior cardiologists for answers.

Cold Wave & Heat Wave Both Harmful: How To Protect Heart From Extreme Weathers

  1. 1. What Happens to Our Body During Winters?

    Dr Chandrashekhar, Associate Director, Cardiac Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, says that when it’s extremely cold outside, our body tries to conserve whatever heat it has inside. 

    Explaining the science behind it, he says:

    “A peripheral constriction of blood vessels takes place, which in turn, leads to an increase in blood pressure. This is especially common in people who experience hypertension.”

    But it’s not just that.

    Dr Anjan Siotia, Director of Cardiology at BM Birla Heart Research Centre, says that there’s also an increase in production of adrenaline to protect the heart and body from extremely cold conditions.

    Along with these, exertion to the body also precipitates heart attacks, chest infections, lung problems, and sometimes even heart failure in people. 

    Dr Nityanand Tripathi, Director, Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, also adds there is also less perspiration, so your body isn’t losing water as quickly as it would like.

    The other causes at play might include a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating patterns, old age, pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, a prior history of coronary heart disease – or just the fact that it’s extremely cold

    For instance, the cold wave that’s hit north India for the past few days has significantly increased the number of hospitalisations due to heart problems, say experts.

    Dr Chandrashekhar and Dr Siotia both say they’ve witnessed more and more patients coming in with shortness of breath, gastritis, chest pain, etc. 

    “Hospitalisations due to heart problems increase in winter, hospitals struggle to find a bed even for emergency cases in winters.”
    Expand
  2. 2. How to Protect Your Heart During A Cold Wave?

    According to experts, the following precautions are to be taken, to protect your heart, during a cold wave. These are more important if you belong to a vulnerable group of people.

    • Wear as many layers of clothes as it takes to keep yourself warm, especially your hands, feet, and head

    • Stick to a balanced healthy diet

    • Avoid overeating

    • If you have a weak heart, lessen your water intake a little bit since your body isn't naturally losing water

    • Get adequate sleep and avoid stressful situations

    • Don’t smoke and limit yourself to 1-2 drinks if you consume alcohol

    • Monitor your blood pressure and keep diabetes in control if you have any pre-existing conditions

    • Stay active and exercise, but at home so that you are not exposed to the cold wave and PM 2.5 pollutants

    • If you’re going out to exercise, avoid going either early in the morning or in the evening

    • Seek medical attention at the earliest if you feel any discomfort 

    Expand
  3. 3. Does This Mean Higher Temperature Means Better Heart Health?

    Yes, hospitalisations due to heart problems in winters increase by nearly 15 percent, says Dr Chandrashekhar. But extreme weather is a two-edged sword – with extreme heat also a cause for concern.

    A study titled Associations Between Extreme Temperatures and Cardiovascular Cause-Specific Mortality: Results From 27 Countries, published in AHA Journals in December 2022, stated:

    “Across a large, multinational sample, exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures was associated with a greater risk of mortality from multiple common cardiovascular conditions.”

    Dr Chandrashekhar also says that a study, published in the European Heart Journal in 2014, suggested that the risk of heart attacks is the highest in the first few days of any extreme weather conditions. 

    Not just that, according to the European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service:

    “Temperature drops of 10℃ – from 5℃ to -5℃ – increased the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 19 percent and from ischaemic heart disease (damage to blood vessels in heart) by 22 percent. With an 11 ℃ temperature drop, from 2℃ to -9℃, the risk of new-onset ischaemic heart disease rose by 4 percent.”

    The study further elaborated,“In people with heart disease at baseline, temperature rises of 15℃ to 24℃ were associated with a 25 percent increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 30 percent higher risk of death from stroke.”

    Expand
  4. 4. What Happens to Your Body In Summer?

    In summers, our body behaves in the exact opposite manner as compared to winters. While our peripheral blood vessels constrict in the winters, they dilate in the summers. 

    This puts more pressure on the heart to pump blood to maintain the circulation. 

    Dr Chandrashekhar adds that in an attempt to keep the body cool, perspiration also increases. A lot of people also suffer from dehydration because the body is losing water and salts quickly.

    Dr Tripathi says that our blood also becomes thicker in summers due to dehydration which might lead to clotting.

    And while there is no direct impact of the heat on the heart, prolonged exposure to heat can cause heat strokes or dehydration, both of which indirectly increase the chances of heart attacks and cardiac arrest. 

    Expand
  5. 5. How to Maintain Heart Health in Summer?

    • Drink a lot of water

    • Eat light meals

    • Try to stay in cooler environments

    • Don’t exercise in extreme heat

    • Those who might be taking medicines for any pre-existing conditions should consult doctors about a change in their medicine regimen since the body loses salts quicker due to perspiration

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Happens to Our Body During Winters?

Dr Chandrashekhar, Associate Director, Cardiac Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, says that when it’s extremely cold outside, our body tries to conserve whatever heat it has inside. 

Explaining the science behind it, he says:

“A peripheral constriction of blood vessels takes place, which in turn, leads to an increase in blood pressure. This is especially common in people who experience hypertension.”

But it’s not just that.

Dr Anjan Siotia, Director of Cardiology at BM Birla Heart Research Centre, says that there’s also an increase in production of adrenaline to protect the heart and body from extremely cold conditions.

Along with these, exertion to the body also precipitates heart attacks, chest infections, lung problems, and sometimes even heart failure in people. 

Dr Nityanand Tripathi, Director, Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, also adds there is also less perspiration, so your body isn’t losing water as quickly as it would like.

The other causes at play might include a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating patterns, old age, pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, a prior history of coronary heart disease – or just the fact that it’s extremely cold

For instance, the cold wave that’s hit north India for the past few days has significantly increased the number of hospitalisations due to heart problems, say experts.

Dr Chandrashekhar and Dr Siotia both say they’ve witnessed more and more patients coming in with shortness of breath, gastritis, chest pain, etc. 

“Hospitalisations due to heart problems increase in winter, hospitals struggle to find a bed even for emergency cases in winters.”
ADVERTISEMENT

How to Protect Your Heart During A Cold Wave?

According to experts, the following precautions are to be taken, to protect your heart, during a cold wave. These are more important if you belong to a vulnerable group of people.

  • Wear as many layers of clothes as it takes to keep yourself warm, especially your hands, feet, and head

  • Stick to a balanced healthy diet

  • Avoid overeating

  • If you have a weak heart, lessen your water intake a little bit since your body isn't naturally losing water

  • Get adequate sleep and avoid stressful situations

  • Don’t smoke and limit yourself to 1-2 drinks if you consume alcohol

  • Monitor your blood pressure and keep diabetes in control if you have any pre-existing conditions

  • Stay active and exercise, but at home so that you are not exposed to the cold wave and PM 2.5 pollutants

  • If you’re going out to exercise, avoid going either early in the morning or in the evening

  • Seek medical attention at the earliest if you feel any discomfort 

ADVERTISEMENT

Does This Mean Higher Temperature Means Better Heart Health?

Yes, hospitalisations due to heart problems in winters increase by nearly 15 percent, says Dr Chandrashekhar. But extreme weather is a two-edged sword – with extreme heat also a cause for concern.

A study titled Associations Between Extreme Temperatures and Cardiovascular Cause-Specific Mortality: Results From 27 Countries, published in AHA Journals in December 2022, stated:

“Across a large, multinational sample, exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures was associated with a greater risk of mortality from multiple common cardiovascular conditions.”

Dr Chandrashekhar also says that a study, published in the European Heart Journal in 2014, suggested that the risk of heart attacks is the highest in the first few days of any extreme weather conditions. 

Not just that, according to the European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service:

“Temperature drops of 10℃ – from 5℃ to -5℃ – increased the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 19 percent and from ischaemic heart disease (damage to blood vessels in heart) by 22 percent. With an 11 ℃ temperature drop, from 2℃ to -9℃, the risk of new-onset ischaemic heart disease rose by 4 percent.”

The study further elaborated,“In people with heart disease at baseline, temperature rises of 15℃ to 24℃ were associated with a 25 percent increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 30 percent higher risk of death from stroke.”

ADVERTISEMENT

What Happens to Your Body In Summer?

In summers, our body behaves in the exact opposite manner as compared to winters. While our peripheral blood vessels constrict in the winters, they dilate in the summers. 

This puts more pressure on the heart to pump blood to maintain the circulation. 

Dr Chandrashekhar adds that in an attempt to keep the body cool, perspiration also increases. A lot of people also suffer from dehydration because the body is losing water and salts quickly.

Dr Tripathi says that our blood also becomes thicker in summers due to dehydration which might lead to clotting.

And while there is no direct impact of the heat on the heart, prolonged exposure to heat can cause heat strokes or dehydration, both of which indirectly increase the chances of heart attacks and cardiac arrest. 

ADVERTISEMENT

How to Maintain Heart Health in Summer?

  • Drink a lot of water

  • Eat light meals

  • Try to stay in cooler environments

  • Don’t exercise in extreme heat

  • Those who might be taking medicines for any pre-existing conditions should consult doctors about a change in their medicine regimen since the body loses salts quicker due to perspiration

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from fit

Topics:  Heat Wave   Heart Health   Cold Wave 

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