Although any season brings with it new challenges and dangers to your health, the wintertime, in particular, is a far more dangerous time of the year when it comes to your heart health. If you already suffer from heart problems, or you have heart-related risk factors, then you need to take extra care during the cold months to reduce your risk of a heart-related event.
Consultant and interventional cardiologist Dr. Rushikesh Patil explained, “One of the common factors associated with low temperature and heart attacks is that in cold weather, our heart has to work harder to maintain the body heat.The drop in temperatures also causes arteries to tighten, which restricts blood flow and reduces the oxygen supply to the heart, which can result in a heart attack.”
It is well documented that cases of heart-related ailments increase during the winter months. Interventional cardiologist Dr. Anand Shenoy added, “This variation is linked with multiple risk factors such as temperature, physical activity, air pollution, infections and food habits. Other potentially important seasonal risk factors include seasonal variation in the plasma levels of hormones, blood-clotting factors and inflammatory markers, which tend to rise in the winter and this is suggested to play an important role in the seasonal increase of heart attacks in winter.”
The greatest risk for a heart-related event is the first two weeks after winter weather occurs. Those most vulnerable to changes in temperature are people aged 75 to 84 along with those who already have coronary heart disease.
In case you aren’t familiar with symptoms of a heart attack, they include chest pain and chest heaviness, pain in the jaw, arms, back, stomach, or neck, fatigue, and shortness of breath. In women, symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, and sweating.
Risk factors of a heart attack include being overweight, high blood pressure or cholesterol, lack of physical activity, stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, having diabetes, and having a family history of heart attack.
A person with hypertension or high cholesterol is at a far higher risk as temperatures drop because arteries become stiffer, so blood can’t flow as freely if there is a blockage due to the plaque. High blood pressure can worsen as well as a result of stiffer arteries. Developing a cold or flu can also increase your risk of a heart attack in the colder months too.
Furthermore, many lifestyle habits that occur when it gets colder, such as lack of physical activity, overeating, becoming more stressed, and consuming more alcohol can all contribute to a higher risk of heart attack. This is why it is so important to focus on healthy lifestyle habits throughout the winter as a means to reduce your risk of a heart-related event. This means watching what you eat, exercising, and reducing stress as much as possible.