Heart attacks in winter multiple and more likely to be fatal; expert
“Risk of heart attacks in winter is twice than summer and they are more likely to be fatal. Heart attacks usually occur in people with a build-up of fatty plaque in their arteries. For a heart attack to occur, some sudden event must cause the plaque to crack and rupture, at which point blood platelets get sticky and form a clot in the artery.”
Dr Harinder Singh Bedi, Director of Cardio-Vascular Endovascular & Thoracic Sciences , Ivy Hospital ,Mohali said that researchers have found in a study that the rate of heart disease-related deaths rose sharply between Dec 25-Jan 7.
There is a combination of factors that increase heart attack risk in winter said Dr Bedi. When a person gets exposed to cold weather, the body’s automatic response is to narrow the blood vessels to the skin so that heat is retained . But for people who already have arteries filled with plaque, the narrowing of the blood vessels raises the risk that it will become blocked, triggering a heart attack.. The problem is higher in India as we do not live in artificially regulated temperatures as in the West, he asserted.
Dr Bedi said that in winter there is an increased blood pressure as narrowing leads to a strain on the heart. This has the effect of a double whammy as not only does the heart have to work harder but its blood supply is reduced.
The thicker blood in cold weather is another reason where blood platelets appear to be more active and stickier and therefore more likely to clot. In fact even the levels of cholesterol rise during the winter, he pointed out.
Holiday feasting is another culprit when people tend to eat and drink more, and gain more weight during the holiday season and winter months.There is also an increased stress hormones when during the winter months, there is a change in the ratio of daylight hours to dark hours, which causes an increase of stress hormones eg cortisol besides depression among people. All above are enhanced now due to Covid regulations and fears
Amidst Covid pandemic , winter also raises chances of flu infection which can increase blood pressure , stir up white blood cell activity, and change C-reactive protein and fibrinogen levels in the blood.
The delay in seeking treatment also lead to heart attack as the risk is higher at the holidays because people commonly delay seeking treatment for symptoms during this time of year – again compounded by Covid fears of going to a hospital.
That doesn’t mean that one needs to be afraid of winter. To minimize the risk one need to keep heart healthy by following tips including staying active, mnaging blood pressure , avoiding early morning walks, putting up adequate layers, eating a diet low in saturated fats and calories, taking stairs and doing active housework etc. If you feel chest pain call for emergency help and do not postpone the treatment, Dr Bedi advised.
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