Recent studies have pointed to an increased mortality rate from heart attacks during the winters. A drop in temperature can impact our health, especially that of our heart, in ways that are more often than not unexpected.
There are a few reasons why heart attacks are more common during the colder months of winter. The major risk factor is associated with the blood vessels in our body. When it is cold, our blood vessels contract. This raises the blood pressure which in turn can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The cold also may cause the coronary arteries to constrict if the person has coronary heart disease. Adding to all of this, the heart has to work even harder during the winters to pump blood and maintain body heat as the body loses heat more easily when the temperature outside drops. Simultaneously, lifestyle changes can influence the onset of heart attacks. The holiday seasons usually see an increase in sedentary lifestyles with most of us spending time at home and less time doing physical activities outdoors.
A higher risk of heart attack, especially during winter, may be seen in people with the following comorbidities:
• Prior heart ailments
• Heart attack in the past
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Tobacco addiction
• Excess alcohol intake
The most common and identifiable signs that one must know about to spot a heart attack are as follows.
• Pain/ discomfort in the chest
• Lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting
• Pain in the jaw, neck, or back
• Discomfort/ pain in the shoulder or arm
• Shortness of breath
• Dress appropriately for the cold weather. This means wearing enough layers to ensure that you stay warm and protected from chills
• Maintain good hygiene by cleansing your hands and other parts of the body often. This can help prevent respiratory infections that can also affect the heart
• Abstain from excess alcohol intake as it can make you feel warmer than you really are, making it especially risky when outside in the cold
• Don’t ignore physical activity. Try exercising indoors with home workouts or walking around inside your house
• Take a break every now and then to help destress. Adding to this, you can try mindfulness practices such as meditation