Why do heart attacks go up in winter? Does the degree of cold matter?

In the past seven decades heart attacks in Indians have increased in both rural and city areas, particularly in urban areas. The issue of air pollution is emerging as a major risk factor, in addition to stress, food intake and a hectic life. The Ahmedabad-based doctor Sameer Dani is the Director of Cardiology Services, Apollo CVHF Heart Institute has conducted numerous comparative studies and has warned regarding the increased risk of heart attacks in the winter season.

Which is the percentage of increase in heart attacks during winter?

Admissions to hospitals for heart-related illnesses are rising by around 20-30 percent during winter. Many studies have been conducted but we do not have a all-encompassing answer. There is a belief that the frigid temperatures impacts your heart in multiple ways. The heart has to pump more blood in comparison to the normal warm weather which your body is accustomed to. Every mile that you take a walk the heart needs to perform more work, in comparison to summer or higher ambient temperatures. Therefore, in extreme temperatures and extreme cold the heart gets stressed.

The second is that cold weather impacts the blood vessels which causes them to contract to keep your body warm. Blood vessels are characterized by an increase in sympathetic tone. This sympathetic nerve system controls the body’s mechanism that regulates the heart rate and blood pressure. The increase in blood pressure could cause plaques to break which can lead to heart attacks in the winter morning. There are also allergens that put stress on the cardiopulmonary system which includes the lungs and heart. It is the time of respiratory ailments, like viral pneumonia or bacterial pneumonia and more, all of which wear the heart. Flu is directly associated with heart attacks. All respiratory illnesses decompensate those with heart diseases and who otherwise are well-compensated.

Additionally, there are diurnal changes of our hormones that are correlated with our sleep cycles. One could compare this to the process of the process of booting up on a computer. Computers are more likely to crash when it is booting and restarting process. That’s the reason we have the highest amount of heart attacks during the morning time as you get up or are about to get up, and it is even more apparent and evident when it’s cold.

Air pollution is becoming an important cause. In those with no medical conditions, family history could become a factor even being healthy. In addition lung diseases such as diabetes, smoking tobacco, hypertension, the lack of physical activities are well-known causes.

Does the severity of cold influence the rate of the incidence?

Surprisingly, there is no direct correlation between the level of cold. Other conditions like environmental and comorbidities can be involved. For instance, the type of air pollution you are exposed to and what diet or lifestyle changes that you face in the winter months are significant factors.

Does the severity of pollution from the air play a part in accelerating the incidence of heart attacks during winter?

Pollution from the air, largely overlooked and not emphasized is definitely a factor. Due to the cold winter conditions, pollutants are located closer to the surface of the earth, which can create inflammation and, in turn, heart attacks. There have been surveys conducted of both rural and city regions and discovered that, as compared to cities heart attacks are less common in rural regions. However, if we look back over the past 70 years the heart attacks that occur within rural regions have been increasing by 10 times. However, there is a variation in heart attack incidence. Cities, however, attribute the increased incidence to mostly four elements including stress, weather food, lifestyle and stressand now, weather is emerging as one of the main causes.

There is evidence from epidemiology that clearly indicates how polluted cities have greater rates of heart attacks, especially during winter, but there’s not a future study that evaluates the impact of pollution levels versus temperature and the incidence of heart attacks.

What measures should we take to protect ourselves in winter?

The typical precautions remain the same. The only difference is the intensity of your exercise will differ. It is not recommended to exert yourself physically, particularly when you suffer from complications. As an example, you shouldn’t attempt a rigorous routine of exercise that you’ve not done before or re-do things you’ve previously done but haven’t gotten accustomed to doing anymore. In the same way, you should be cautious about eating too much and drinking because cold weather causes you to feel hungry in addition to the numerous celebrations and celebrations this time of year. One option we can consider, and which we usually recommend to our patients is to get the flu vaccine during the months of August and September. Typically, the strains vary and WHO releases information about the strains that are in circulation so that new vaccines are made available. It is always recommended to be vaccinated and get ready for the winter.

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