Seasonal variation in morbidity and mortality due to cardiovascular disorders has been noted with higher incidence rates during the winter than in the summer. Any person with a diseased heart is at risk during the winter season if proper care is not taken.
Winter season or cold weather can affect the rhythm of the heart and blood circulation. It takes the heart to work harder to keep the body warm during the cold season. The blood vessels constrict to conserve the body heat so the heart pumps blood against increased vascular resistance which leads to Heart Failure. Sudden exposure or long-term exposure to cold during the winter season without proper clothes and food can increase the risk of developing blood clots which can eventually lead to stroke, heart attack and peripheral gangrene.
The risk of heart attacks and cardiac arrests increases during the clod season, especially in patients with pre-existing heart conditions of coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, valvular heart disease, congenital heart disease, and electrical abnormalities in the heart.
The presence of any risk factors such as frequent cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, and family history of coronary artery disease can also increase one’s chances of heart attack or cardiac arrest during the winter significantly.
The incidence of flu infection usually peaks in the winter. Flu infection is a known risk factor for heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
Hormones controlling blood vessel constriction such as vasopressin (AVP), norepinephrine (NE), epinephrine (E) and angiotensin II, aldosterone, and catecholamine tend to rise in the winter. Besides, if the person already has any pre-existing blockages in their arteries, this could result in a decreased flow of oxygen to the vital organs giving rise to ischemia.
Several variables such as barometric pressure, humidity, wind and cold temperatures, may play a role in the increased risk of a heart attack during cold weather. Typically, cardiac arrest results from an electrical disruption in your heart that interferes with its pumping operation, compromising the flow of blood to your body.
Increased alcohol intake during winters causes precipitation of cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure and stroke.
Another startling explanation for increased cardiovascular diseases during the winter season is overheating. Adding multiple layers of warm clothes or indulging in too much physical activity can lead to blood vessel dilation. This can lead to a dramatic drop in blood pressure, thus reducing the flow of blood to the heart, invariably causing a heart attack.
|Cardiovascular Diseases||Reason for High Risk During Winter Season|
|Deep venous thrombosis (DVT)||It has been proposed that reduced physical activity during the winter months, decreased blood flow in the lower limbs and decreased fibrinolytic activity are correlated with an increased occurrence of DVT in the winter.|
|Pulmonary Embolism||The changes in coagulation factors level, peripheral vasoconstriction and reduced activity lead to seasonal increases in pulmonary embolism episodes.|
|Aortic Rupture Dissection||The underlying cause is unclear, but aortic aneurysm rupture causes are predisposed to hypertension and cigarette smoking. Fibrinogen levels display broad seasonal variation, which can cause Aortic Rupture Dissection, rising by up to 23% during the winter season.|
|Stroke||Stroke is frequent in autumn and winter and less common in spring and summer, and independent of gender.|
|Nontraumatic Intracerebral Hemorrhage||Hypertension and exposure to low temperature during winters are predisposing factors to intracerebral haemorrhage.|
|Hypertension||Cold temperature, a decline of physical activity, variations in serum cholesterol level, noradrenalin, Catecholamine, and vasopressin during winter act as a trigger for Hypertension.|
|Heart Failure||Cold weather or low temperature that leads to increased peripheral vasoconstriction, which may lead to pulmonary oedema as a consequence of left ventricular failure along with increased plasma norepinephrine concentrations are associated with increased mortality in winter.|
|Atrial Fibrillation||Seasonal variation in the occurrence of atrial fibrillation has been documented, with peaks typically occurring in the winter-autumn season.|
|Angina Pectoris||The highest hospital admissions due to Angina Pectoris are during winter as compared to other seasons. Unstable angina is significant in male patients.|
|Acute Myocardial Infarction||Increasing age, change in arterial blood pressure, vasoconstriction, plasma cortisol and catecholamine’s, platelet aggregability have shown to increase morbidity and mortality from AMI during the autumn and winter season.|
It is important to recognize early symptoms to stay alert and visit a physician before the situation goes out of hand. The symptoms related to cardiac disorders are:
Acute chest pain
Nausea or dizziness
Upper-body pain radiating around the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or abdomen
Shortness of breath
Tightness or a feeling of discomfort or fullness in the centre of the chest
Elderly people and children are vulnerable as they find it hard to regulate their temperature during the winter season. Weight gain leads to an increase in blood pressure due to deposition of fats and thus leads to constriction of arteries putting more strain on the heart.
Cardiovascular disorders during the winter season can be prevented. Yes, it is possible. Please follow the below tips to prevent cardiac disorders.
Incorporate heart-healthy foods in the diet. Food such as fruits and vegetables, fibre-rich whole grains, fatty fish, nuts, legumes, and seeds are loaded with heart-healthy nutrients should be included in the daily diet. Avoid fatty foods and cholesterol.
Limit the intake of salt and sugar in the diet. Avoid soft drinks and red meat.
Regular exercise is a great way to ward off heart disease in the winters. Play indoor games or do yoga.
Avoid outdoor activities without proper warm clothing.
Get a minimum sleep of 7-8 hours to boost your energy levels.
Cover yourself properly with woollen clothes if you are going out in the cold. Try to stay indoors as much as possible.
Do not consume excessive alcohol.
Consult your doctor in case of fever.
Atherosclerosis is characterized by narrowing of the arteries due to deposition of fat and plaque, Atherosclerosis is associated with a high incidence of heart attack, cardiac arrest and stroke. Diabetes, hypertension and high blood cholesterol and obesity are some of the most important risk factors for atherosclerosis.
During the winter season, with a fall in temperature, the arteries tighten and restrict blood flow. This reduces oxygen supply to the heart and higher chances of a heart attack.
Cold weather can cause constriction of blood vessels and arteries, thereby making it harder for the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood across the body. This constriction can cause chest pain, or angina, and can also spread to the shoulders, arms, or neck.
Consultant - Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Cardiac Science
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