5 ways winter is hurting your heart

Here is how to care for your heart this winter.

Cold weather not just brings flu and asthma attacks in its wake, it also increases the risk of heart attacks. Evidence suggests that the number of patients suffering from heart attacks increases during winter. Sadly, public awareness regarding these dangers remains abysmally low, including heart patients. Here, Dr T S Kler, Executive Director (Cardiac Sciences), Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre, New Delhi, cites the reasons why winter is a bad phase for heart patients and how to stay safe and healthy. Here are eight warning signs of heart attack that you should know.

1. Hypothermia: The risk of hypothermia or a sudden loss of body temperature is common during winter, even as we keep ourselves covered with woollens. Hypothermia puts the body in a state of shock. This may also happen when a person is not adequately protected or covered, which could be deadly for heart patients. The body suddenly loses its capacity to produce warmth on being exposed to the chill. In fact, heart attacks that happen during winters can be attributed to hypothermia over any other triggers. People with coronary heart disease also often suffer angina or chest pain when exposed to cold weather. Here are 10 causes of chest pain that you should know.

2. An overworked heart: We don t realise this but during winter, our heart works overtime as the cold weather compels it to pump more blood to the peripheral areas of the body. This is one of the many reasons why blood pressure soars during winter, making one prone to heart attacks and failures.

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3. Constricted airways: With a drop in body temperature, arteries and veins are believed to tighten or squeeze. This may restrict the supply of oxygen to the heart, putting it at a risk.

4. Lack of Vitamin D: Deficiency of vitamin D is a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), strokes, and the conditions associated with cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Shortage of the same during winter just sets the stage for the heart to underperform. Here is why Indians should take calcium and Vitamin D.

5. Fluctuating cholesterol levels: For heart patients, cholesterol will always be the villain. Cholesterol levels often fluctuate with change in season, which may leave people with borderline high cholesterol with greater cardiovascular risk during the winter months. And it isn t unknown that high LDL cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart diseases.

What you can do

  • It might sound clich d but dress up in layers of clothing to stay safe and prevent body temperature from falling.
  • Avoid exhausting yourself. Your heart is already under stress, coping with the drop in temperature, and it might not be able to take another bout of high-stress activity. Take rest between work and exercise.
  • Never ignore any symptoms of a heart problem, at least during winter chest pain, fatigue, breathing problems, as these could indicate danger.

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