Cold temperature is the most common health risk you experience in the winter season, but people often mistaken hypothermia or frostbite to be the only threat at hand.
However, the drop in degrees impacts our health in ways we may not expect. Yes the risk of cold, flu or pneumonia is to be considered too during winters but our hearts particularly are more important to be looked after.
A study was published in JAMA Cardiology in November, which analyzed information on about 274,000 people living in Sweden.
They found out that the risk of having a heart attack was greatest on days when the temperature was below freezing.
Another study, published in PLOS One in 2015, estimated that there was up to a thirty one percent increase in heart attacks in the coldest months of the year compared with the warmest.
Patricia Vassallo, MD is a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine. She explains that heart attacks are more common in winter, and there are several theories behind this phenomenon.
The most important risk factor is BIOLOGICAL:
The chilling whether causes our blood vessels to contract, which naturally raises our blood pressure. This increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Angina, also known as chest pain due to coronary heart disease, also worsens in the winters when coronary arteries constrict in the cold.
Moreover, our heart has to work extra hard in order to maintain a healthy body temperature. The cold winter wind makes this even more difficult as it causes our body to cool down and lose heat more quickly.
If our body temperature drops below 95 degrees, our body becomes prone to hypothermia which can damage the heart muscle.
Deviation in activities specifically physical, can impact our risk of heart strokes as well.
During the winters, we often find ourselves doing more exhausting physical activities than we are used to, such as shoveling or walking through heavy heaps of snow.
Our breathing and our heart pumping blood throughout the body are very closely related. The heart pumps blood so it can circulate to the tissues as well as get oxygen from the lungs.
When there is very little oxygen reaching the heart, it naturally results in heart related problems.
Who doesn’t eat in winters? We eat as much as we can. Let it be on Thanksgiving or Christmas or New year.
Oily food and alcohol affects our hearts irrespective of the season but more intake of these foods and beverages without much physical activity like gym or cardio results in high cholesterol and blood pressure which automatically increases the threat of heart problems.
Emotional baggage of the holiday season is also more likely to increase the level of stress hormones which is followed by the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Practicing self care around the holidays like meditation or keeping our self happy and avoiding negativity and toxicity can help us manage our stress and minimize our risk of heart failure.
Whether one is impacted by all or just one of these factors, temperature, physical activity, food preference and emotional stress directly contribute to an increased risk of heart stroke during the winter.
However, you can take precautionary measures by following a few strategies from the cardiologists at Northwestern Medicine:
Dress according to the weather
Wear hats, gloves and heavy socks and clothes that keep you warm and cozy.
Try to stay in centrally heated rooms. If you have to work outside, keep taking breaks to warm yourself.
Avoid too much alcohol
Alcohol tends to make us feel warmer than we really are. This makes it particularly dangerous when we’re outside in the cold thinking it’s warm when it’s not.
Avoid shoveling for long periods
It causes shortness of breath and oxygen so avoid any exhausting activity when out.
Wash your hands regularly
Respiratory infections also increase the risk of heart attack.
Even if it’s too cold or a holiday, get medical help if you experience any of the below signs or symptoms.
Heart Stroke Warning Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms can vary between men and women. Men are observed to occasionally report
- pain in the upper body including arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or abdomen;
- shortness of breath
- A feeling of fullness in the center of the chest
Whereas, women more likely experience atypical signs, which sometimes leads them to disregard the signs.
Common complains by women that are actually symptoms of heart attacks include overwhelming fatigue, loss of breath; nausea, dizziness, sweat, flu or pneumonia and pain in abdomen, jaw or back.