We all enjoy the winter season. We enjoy hot coffee and candies on cold days, but we also tend to associate the winter with old friends and family reunions/festivals.
But it’s also of vital importance to restrict your intake of saturated fats during the winter months to help avoid clogged arteries and keep your heart in good health.
Unfortunately, incidences of human casualties due to heart disease and stroke increase during the winter season. Luckily, these conditions are avoidable with a healthy lifestyle.
Studies have shown that heart attacks in winter are less sometimes fatal than in summer. Angina, heart attack and other heart related conditions are more common on winter mornings.
How does winter affect heart health?
In cold weather, our noses tend to get sore and runny, resulting in a runny nose and sneezing constantly. You may also suffer from some stuffy congestion. Most common in winter are colds and the flu which can have serious symptoms like coughs, fevers, headaches, muscle pains etc. But winter is much more severe for people with heart problems because of the temperature difference in their body making it harder for their blood to flow more efficiently through the vessels, Such as:
· The heart has two roles, to keep blood supply in place and at the same time maintain body temperature.
· The reduced temperature may cause constriction of blood vessels. It may lead to decreased blood flow to the heart areas, thus compromising overall heart health.
· When winters come along, chances of developing blood clots also increase because of the cold.
· Blood pressure and cholesterol levels may also increase in winter, which could then lead to a heart attack in some patients.
How does the winter affect heart patients?
The body is physically programmed to react physiologically with changes in temperature.
Decreased temperature may cause a sharp increase in sympathetic nervous system activation. This leads to constrictive blood vessels (vasoconstriction) which increases blood pressure and makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to body parts, making a person more prone to serious coronary health problems.
What are common health conditions that may increase the risk for heart patients in winter?
During the winter, we are more prone to illness in the following ways:
In hypothermia you feel cold and shiver when your body temperature is lower than normal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or less. You may experience the following symptoms:
· Slurred speech
Angina is similar to a heart attack. Angina occurs when the heart does not get sufficient blood flow for an extended period of time due to blockages that impede the blood flow. The blood flow may decrease during winter, which could lead to stress on the body and cause arterial blockage that further leads to chest pain or angina. The most common symptoms in a patient suffering from angina are:
· Pressure, heaviness, tightness, or pain in the chest lasting for a few minutes
· Sometimes the pain radiates to the arm, jaw, neck, shoulder, and back
· Shortness of breath
· Pain disappears shortly after rest or medication
Preventive measures in winter:
When the temperature is low, pollution and other elements in the air may increase risk of heart disease during the winter season. Following are some preventive measures to keep in mind to keep your heart healthy:
· During the winter season, people who are prone to cold weather should make sure they wear clothes that will insulate their bodies from the bitter temperatures.
· Stay active physically. It’s not necessary to exercise outside. You can do indoor activities like light aerobics, yoga, home workouts, dancing, and meditation. Exercising regularly helps your body to stay warm and helps you stay in good shape. And don’t forget the importance of getting enough sleep!
· Drink warm water with honey in winter. Avoid fried, fatty, and sweet food and high cholesterol food that can increase the risk of heart diseases.
· Keep a close eye on medical conditions like diabetes, blood pressure, kidney, and vascular problems. These conditions if left unchecked not only make you more prone to heart problems but they can lead to serious health issues including stroke or cardiovascular disease that can shorten your life!
· Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
How to detect if you are having a heart problem?
Many heart conditions don’t come with warning signs. If any warning signs do appear, don’t wait until they get worse — seek medical attention right away. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, get an immediate check-up:
· Pain or any discomfort in the chest
· Some people may experience heartburn, indigestion, and stomach pain in a heart attack
· Sometimes chest pain is not evident, but the pain in the shoulder and arm is present.
· Shortness of breath and wheezing
· Long-lasting cough in a heart patient
· Easily get tired
· Sweating without physical activity
The cold weather during this colder time of the year can be tough on people with weak hearts. But there are a couple things you can do to help your heart cope. Diet is one thing you can control, by making sure to eat healthy and exercise as much as you can. If you feel like something isn’t right with your heart, don’t ignore it — go see a doctor and let him or her know what’s going on so he or she can properly diagnose it and treat it as soon as possible.
Dr. Ganeshakrishnan Iyer is a prominent Cardiothoracic Surgeon in Bangalore and has over 25 years of experience in the field. He is an expert on cardiac surgery and helps patients that are in need of such procedures.