Did you know that the risk of heart attacks increases during winter months?
A 2013 study published in PubMed Central says: "There is a clear seasonal trend of cardiovascular diseases, with the highest incidence occurring during the colder winter months, which have been described in many countries. This phenomenon likely contributes to the numbers of deaths occurring in winter."
But it's not just this study that proposes that cold weather has an impact on our heart. Another study, published in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases in 2016, after examining over 1,70,000 cases of ischemic stroke also came to the same conclusion. As did a German study that suggested that heart attacks increase by 11 percent every time the temperature drops by 2.9 degree Celsius over a period of 24 hours.
Doctors agree with the findings of these studies. What should you know about this? FIT tells you.
What Is the Reason Behind This Increase in Heart Attacks During Winters?
Dr Sanjay Kumar, Director of Interventional Cardiology at Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, explains that one of the major reasons behind increased heart attacks during winters is something called vasoconstriction.
He goes on:
“Because of the cold weather, the arteries in our heart shrink, which leads to an increase in blood pressure. At the same time, the weather also causes a surge in adrenaline hormones. Both of these increase the stress on our heart.”
While this is the primary reason, there are others as well:
Increased intake of fatty foods, that provide warmth, during winters
Increased cases of influenza and pneumococcal lung infections elevate the strain on those who already have compromised or weaker hearts
Less sweating during winters means that people who have weaker hearts retain more water in their bodies, ultimately having heart failures
Increased air pollution and smog
Who Is at Risk?
Dr Bimal Chhajer, a former consultant at AIIMS and the founder of Science and Art of Living Heart Institute, says that anyone who has high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and diabetes is at risk.
Additionally, those who smoke, are overweight or obese, and have high stress are also at the risk of a heart attack. And older people as well.
What Can We Do To Prevent This From Happening?
Dr Kumar suggests that those with weak hearts get vaccinated against influenza and pneumococcal lung infections. He also advises people to restrict their fluid intake and avoid walking outside when it’s very cold.
Dr Chhajer agrees. He adds a few more precautionary measures to the list:
Avoid eating fatty foods
Avoid smoking and the usage of any other tobacco product as well
Try to maintain your weight if you are obese
Do some exercise every day, be it yoga or taking a walk
Check your lipid profiles to make sure your blood sugar and blood pressure are in control