Why Does Risk Of Heart Disease And Heart Failure Increase In Winters?

  • January 8, 2022
Risk factors of heart disease

The cold winter months are known to significantly spike the risk of cardiovascular problems, heart failure, arrhythmia and even stroke. A study actually revealed a 31% jump in heart attacks during winter months, when blood vessels tend to tighten, thus triggering a rise in blood pressure levels and forcing the heart to pump more vigorously. This is when any undue strain on the heart can trigger a heart attack.

What are the early warning signs of a heart attack?

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack could vary from person to person, and are often different for men and women.

  • For men: The main symptom could be a chest pain of fluctuating intensity, radiating down to the left arm. Symptoms could also mimic those of a muscle pull, with the pain waxing and waning.
  • For women:Women suffering a heart attack could have difficulty breathing, nausea or dizziness or even pain in the jaw, back or abdomen. Sometimes, symptoms could be confused with those of flu.
  • Silent ischemia: In certain cases, the person having a heart attack might not actually feel any discernible symptom at all. These are referred to as silent ischemia or silent heart attacks and scientists are now asserting that they might have underestimated the incidence of such attacks.

What are the known causes for a spike in cardiac conditions during winter?

The drop in temperature can affect the heart’s functioning in myriad ways:

  • Cold weather causes the blood vessels to contract, leading to a rise in blood pressure levels that can trigger a heart attack or a stroke. Constricted blood vessels can also make angina or chest pain from coronary artery disease (CAD) worse in winter.
  • The heart has to toil that much harder to maintain an optimum body temperature during winter and hypothermia can even damage heart muscles if the body temperature drops alarmingly.
  • In summer, we tend to sweat a lot and hence lose fluids. This is not the case in cold weather, thus increasing blood volume and salt and fluid retention, in the event, raising BP levels and chances of a heart attack.
  • Also in cold weather, we tend to exercise less and hence fail to burn the calories we are consuming. Sudden weight gain and changes in blood vessel physiology could be a bad cocktail, often inviting clots and increasing risks of a heart attack.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking could also elevate the risks of heart disease, even more so in winter months.
  • Winter months are often associated with a deficiency in vitamin D which could be a factor in precipitating cardiac conditions, scientists opine.

Which groups are more at risk of heart disease in winter?

Those who are at a high risk of heart attacks in cold weather include:

  • Individuals with a prior record of cardiac issues
  • Someone who has suffered a heart attack earlier
  • People suffering from hypertension and/or high cholesterol count
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol

Is there anything I should do if I feel I’m having a heart attack?

The first thing to do is to call for an ambulance or seek emergency medical help. After that:

  • You can take an aspirin tablet (300mg) if possible
  • Try to rest and stay calm till help arrives

How can I minimize risk of cardiac disease in winter?

  • Try and follow a diet that is easy on your heart
  • Don’t smoke or drink too much
  • Monitor your BP and cholesterol levels regularly
  • Make sure to follow some exercise regimen
  • Try to keep stress levels under control
  • Try to keep yourself warm, more so if you have a heart condition

Remember help is always at hand in case of emergencies. Medica Ranchi is equipped to handle all heart emergencies under the supervision of specialists.

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