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Handle your heart with a tad more care during the winter

Wear protective gear like gloves during winter. © Shutterstock

Do you know that those chilly winter days can give a tough time to your heart? Research says that we are more prone to heart failures during this season. Here, experts explain why and share a few vital tricks to keep heart safe this winter.

Written by Aishwarya Vaidya |Updated : December 25, 2018 3:44 PM IST

The findings of quite a number of studies suggest that the incidence of heart attacks and related deaths are higher during winter. Reports say that during the chilly winter days, the mortality rate owing to heart attacks may be as much as 50 per cent higher than other times of the year.

Dr. Nilesh Gautam, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, says, "Multiple factors can increase the incidences of heart attacks and other heart problems increase during winter. Owing to the cold, the heart has to pump more beats per minute in order to circulate warm blood throughout the body. So, the chances of a heart rhythm disorder also go up. During the summer, in a normal individual, the heart is beating at the rate of 70 beats per minute, whereas, in winter it will be 80-84. Another reason is, people tend to remain indoors and when they are exposed to the chilly environment outdoors, there is a sudden surge in their blood pressure. Hence, if your blood pressure tends to shoot up unexpectedly, then there is an increased load on your heart. Moreover, to avoid cold, one stays indoors and becomes lethargic. This can also cause a type of depression called a seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which may cause heart problems. There are increased incidences of an abnormal rhythm of the heart as well. Also, vitamin D deficiency can lead to depression and increase the level of stress on your heart, inviting heart attacks."

He adds, "Older people are more at the risk of heart attacks during winter, as the amount of fat in the body goes down, as they age. Fat is the source of heat generation in your body. If the fat content is less as in older people, the heart will have to beat at a higher rate to circulate warm blood across the body to ensure the optimum functioning of your heart. In the younger individual, this amount of fat can burn and generate more heat so the heart rate variation is not that great. As, the age advances, 10 to 30 per cent blockages in the arteries are common. But, the percentage of heart blockages tend to increase in elderly people during the winter along with an increased heart rate and BP fluctuations. Hence, these factors can put elderly people at the risk of heart attacks."

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Here are some heart-friendly hacks suggested by experts. Follow them to safeguard your heart this winter.

Wear winter protection gear

"During those extremely cold days, you should stay indoors and keep your body temperature regulated by wearing socks, gloves, jacket, etc. Avoid venturing out without wearing your protective gear," says Dr. Gautam.

Don't ignore the warning signs

The telling symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, sweating, breathlessness and so on, and consult your expert immediately in case you experience any of these symptoms. Be more cautious about your body's signals and watch out for them during this season.

Exercise tips

"In the morning, avoid exercising outdoors during those chilly days. Instead, you can exercise at home - do yoga, pranayam, squats, lunges and many other exercises, which can keep your body warm and pump up your heart rate. In case you wish to exercise outdoors, step out during in the late afternoon. This could be a good time for a walk. Also, don't forget to warm up before exercising. Moreover, you can include strength training, core exercises and stretching which will help your heart stay in top shape," says Dr. Gautam.

Eat foods which protect your heart

According to Ankita Ghag, Clinical Dietician, InBody India, "You should eat small meals and in controlled proportions. Include green tea in your daily diet which contains flavonoids and eliminates your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), by reducing your LDL and triglycerides. Eat garlic which contains a compund called allicin. This can help reduce inflammation and fight major heart diseases like dyslipidemia (having blood lipid levels which are too high or low), CVD. Have turmeric which has curcumin, an antioxidant which boosts immunity and protects your heart. You should also go for walnuts, flax, sesame and chia seeds, salmon and cod liver oil, which are enriched with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and help lower your LDL and triglycerides. Furthermore, eat fibre-rich foods like oats, green leafy veggies, whole cereals and pulses to enhance your heart health. You should avoid eating spicy, oily, junk and sugar-laden foods, alcohol and smoking. These can be the culprits behind your visceral fat levels and put you at the risk of lifestyle diseases like CVD, obesity, hypertension and so on."

Keep your insulin levels in check

Elevated insulin levels can cause insulin resistance, which is considered a major risk factor for heart disease, and more so in the winter. So during this season, you need to be more cautious about your exercise routine and what you put in your mouth. Stay away from refined sugar and follow a low-carb diet.

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