By Dr Rajnish Sardana, Additional Director, Cardiology and Electrophysiology, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj
Health Tips, Health News, Heart Health: Cold weather greatly impacts human health, especially the heart. It is quite common for old age people to experience pain in the heart, mostly in winter. According to the data provided by the Indian Heart Association, 50% of all heart attacks occur in adult men over the age of 50, whereas men under the age of 40 account for one-fourth of heart attacks. The incidence of heart attack increases exponentially in winter.
You must be wondering why there are more instances of heart attacks in winter than in summer. Why does even the young population experience pain in the heart during winter? How can you stay fit and keep your heart healthy in winter? The answer is right here!
Major risk factors that develops heart problems in winters
According to Northwestern Medicine cardiologist Patricia Vassallo, the cause of higher prevalence rates of heart attacks in winter include biological factors as well as lifestyle changes:
High blood pressure increases the risks of heart attack
Due to low temperatures, there is more fat deposition in the blood vessel linings because the fat does not easily dissolve in the cold. Another reason for more fat deposition is that in winter, our body metabolism changes in such a way that it produces more fat to protect the body from cold. Due to a lack of physical activities in winter and low heat production in the body, the deposited fat tends to become rigid and makes the blood vessel linings narrower.
The flow of blood tends to get slower in narrow blood vessels, and the heart finds it hard to pump it throughout the body. The other term which is used to describe this condition is blood vessel contraction. Blood also becomes thick and viscous that is slow to move. These conditions raise the blood pressure level in winter. Increased blood pressure ultimately affects the heart in case of fatigue or results in stroke and heart attack.
Angina- Chest pain due to coronary artery disease
Chest pain can also worsen in colds as the blood vessels, especially the arteries constrict in winter due to high deposition.
Hypothermia- Damage in the heart muscles
In winter, the heart finds it difficult to pump dense and viscous blood and needs to work extra to produce more heat so as to maintain a healthy body temperature. When the body temperature reaches below 95 degree Celsius, it can give rise to a condition called hypothermia which results in heart muscle damage.
Lifestyle changes- physical activity and workouts
With winter comes the holiday season, and people often get emotional stress during these months, which releases stress hormones in the body. The stress hormone is also responsible for increasing the risks of heart attacks and heart strokes.
Extremely strenuous exercises in winter push the heart to work harder, which greatly increases the risk of heart attacks.
Tips to keep our heart healthy during winters
All the above factors contribute to increased heart attack risks. Whether you are affected by one factor or more, you can develop heart problems. To avoid heart problems in winter, you must take precautionary measures. The following tips can help you maintain a healthy heart throughout winter:
Maintain a healthy heart diet
Do regular exercise
Keep track of your blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels and sugar levels, and maintain these in the normal range
Avoid excess alcohols
Dress up perfectly for the weather
Quit smoking to maintain a healthy heart
Manage your stress
Consume warm foods in winter
Healthy heart diet
In winter, you must focus on a diet that does not enhance your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels.
The Mediterranean diet is a wonderful option when you want to maintain a healthy heart. A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, low-fat foods, and low salt content foods can help you achieve a healthy diet.
To maintain normal blood pressure- Avoid salty foods; sodium and chloride ions get mixed with the blood and increase the blood pressure.
To maintain normal blood cholesterol levels- Avoid high-fat-rich foods and oily – trans fats. Trans fats increase blood cholesterol drastically. It is the worst form of all the fat types.
To maintain normal blood sugar levels- Pick your carbohydrates sensibly, ideally coming from fruits, whole grains, and veggies. Avert eating candy, sugary soft drinks, sweets, white bread, pasta, and rice, as well as other highly refined carbohydrates.
Keeping yourself calm, managing your stress with some recreational activities, eating warm foods, going for normal exercises and avoiding strenuous workouts can help you achieve a healthy heart all year round and especially in winter. In lower temperatures, there is a heavy impact of smoking on the lungs and heart, so avoid smoking and excess alcohol to get yourself away from heart problems. Enjoy your winter!