We always joke our families give us heart attacks during the holidays. Turns out it might be the cold weather stressing our hearts. The cold of winter will affect up to 50 percent of those already at risk for cardiac arrest.
The reason behind this data is rather simple. When temperatures dip, our arteries constrict to preserve as much heat as possible. This constriction of our arteries requires the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Dr. Vanita Arora, head of Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab and Arrhythmia Services in Max Hospital in India, warns the cold temperatures can be “more risky for those who do not have any inkling about pre-existing heart conditions.”
To guard against any cardiac stress brought on by cold weather, Dr. Arora suggests those who must go outside do so later in the day. Temperatures are often warmer as the day progresses, lessening the impact of cold on cardiovascular systems. Those with conditions such as diabetes should take extra caution. Those at risk should also watch their diet. We tend to overeat during the winter holidays, and the added stress and cholesterol brought by over-indulgence, combined with the cold weather, can be enough to push people into heart failure.
Additionally, many heart winter problems also arise when people drink alcohol in an attempt to warm themselves. Alcohol directly causes atrial fibrillation, where the heart gets out of rhythm. This can lead to chest pain, fainting, and even heart failure.
Data suggests these heart problems brought by cold weather are most prominent in places with noticeable seasonal temperature changes. Regions where there is cold weather all year around see little uptick in cardiac problems come winter.
Even with all this data, scientists still maintain the best way to avoid winter’s cardiac stresses are to mind any symptoms and visit a physician regularly.