As the temperatures drop, it becomes difficult to retain heat inside your body. The fall in our body's internal temperature is too dangerous for people living with cardiovascular problems who may suffer from angina or chest pain when exposed to cold weather. In fact, winter is the most vulnerable time for patients having a background history of heart diseases.
According to doctors, it is imperative to not ignore irregular discomfort in chest, severe sweating, pain in the neck, arms, jaws and shoulders or shortness of breath during winter, which are major symptoms of heart failures.
Speaking about the same, Dr. Anil Dhall, Venkateshwar Hospital, Dwarka, New Delhi said, "The main reason for the increase in heart-related ailments in winter could be the rise in blood pressure. The arteries become constricted due to which the heart must exert more effort to pump blood. Winters also tend to increase levels of certain proteins in the blood stream which in turn increases the risk of blood clots. Many heart attacks are caused due to hypothermia, the condition of heart failure due to abnormally low body temperature."
Dhall added that another possible reason could be that cold weather allows smog and pollutants to settle on ground leading to chest infection, which may propel the incidence of heart attacks. "On the other hand, shorter and cooler days spent indoors can cause a person to become lethargic and lead to a type of depression known as Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can also be a risk factor for heart problems."
The strain on the heart can be difficult to handle for the elderly and those with existing issues. The elderly are at greater risk of heart attacks. Besides this, cholesterol levels tend to fluctuate significantly leaving people with borderline diabetes at greater cardiovascular risk during the colder months.
Adding further Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI), said, "All heart patients should have their cardiac and mental stress levels check up done in winter. A heart attack can come with irregular meals, late nights, missing of regular dose of medicines and indulgence in smoking and drinking. Acute stress-related events are common during winters, especially close to full moon in the early morning hours. The circadian variation in event frequency suggests that cardiac events may be triggered by external activities, particularly those activating the sympathetic nervous system."
Here are some preventive measures to prevent the risk of heart problems in winter.
· Although exercising regularly is good for our heart, avoid going for morning walk on extremely chilly days as blood pressure naturally spikes in the morning. Instead, try walking in the evening before the sun sets.
· Stay indoors to keep your body temperature regulated. Wear socks, gloves, and cover yourself with comfortable layers. Also, make sure to bathe in hot water every time.
· Eating a large meal always puts extra load on your heart. Eat small, healthy and regulated meals at intervals. Limit the intake of salt and water.
· Be prepared for emergencies and do not ignore minor symptoms such as discomfort in the chest, sweating, breathlessness and pain in the neck, jaws or shoulders, and swelling in the feet. Contact a specialist on an immediate basis to resolve any panic complaint of sudden chest pain.