Cold weather can put your heart health at risk, especially if you have an existing heart condition. It can result from various factors like low temperature, air pressure, wind, and humidity. However, knowing how winter can affect your heart health can go a long way into preventing a heart attack.
What exactly affects our heart health adversely in winter is still evolving, but many theories exist, along with some risk factors.
During winter, our bodies undergo certain physiological and biological adjustments to function optimally.
The cold can cause your blood vessels and coronary arteries to constrict, resulting in elevated levels of blood pressure, restrictive blood flow, and reduced supply of oxygen to the heart, which can eventually lead to a heart attack.
Additionally, your heart has to work harder during winter to maintain a healthy body temperature. Winter can hypothermia, a condition caused when the body loses heat quicker than usual, resulting in damaged heart muscles.
Furthermore, the emotional stress during winter, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, can increase levels of stress hormones, increasing your risk of heart attack or stroke. Know more about how to stay healthy in winter here.
Cold weather makes our body undergo certain adjustments, biologically, that can result in a higher risk of heart attack or stroke. Low temperatures can cause:
A heart attack may produce a variety of signs and symptoms, differently in males and females.
In males, it mostly occurs with a pain in the chest that radiates down to the left arm. It may come across as a muscle pull, and may last more than a few minutes, fluctuating in intensity.
Females may experience symptoms like excessive fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, jaw pain, nausea, abdominal or back pain, and flu-like symptoms.
However, there may be times a sign or symptom may not show itself. In that case, it is also known as a silent heart attack or silent ischemia.
In case you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, consult with your doctor immediately.
People who are at a high risk of a heart attack in winter are:
“Studies in India show that there are significant regional variations, with high cardiovascular disease mortality in Goa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab.”
If you think you’re experiencing a heart attack, call the ambulance immediately. Then follow the below steps:
Chest pain may also occur due to conditions like indigestion, muscle pull, pulmonary embolism (a condition in which one or more artery gets blocked due to a blood clot), or angina ( a condition cause when your heart muscles don’t get enough oxygen-rich blood).
More often than not, people dismiss signs of a heart attack as only indigestion or a muscle strain, ignoring the need to consult a doctor.
According to the studies, the urban population is at a higher risk of having a heart attack than the rural population. The main reason for this being our sedentary lifestyles, higher levels of stress, poor and unhealthy diets, and high pollution levels.
Dr.Naresh Trehan, Chairman and MD of Medanta Super Speciality Hospital, and a world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon himself, shares these 5 tips to keep your heart healthy:
Excessive alcohol consumption can warm up your body more than required, which can be dangerous when you’re out in the cold. The body adapts to temperatures slowly, so drink in moderation (not more than two drinks a week). Smoking should be completely abstained from. Cigarette smoking is one of the key contributors to heart diseases or heart failures.
Cold temperatures can cause your blood vessels to clamp down. Hence, dress in warm layers before stepping out.
However, if your body is getting overheated, remove a layer until you release enough heat. Too much heat can cause your blood vessels to dilate and lower your blood pressure drastically.
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the key contributing factors towards lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes. However, it may be risky to step out early in the morning in the cold temperature. So, opt for indoor exercises like yoga, pilates, or simple routines in your living room.
Take breaks from work, engage in hobbies or activities like gardening or painting, try yoga at home, and mediate. Ensure you take regular breaks from work.
Everyone must go for regular health checkups - even if they don’t have any medical history. Here is a list of tests that everyone across the age of 30-60 should take annually.
It is important to continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet during winter. Eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise enough to keep your heart healthy not only in winter, but throughout the year.