As winter sets in, Dr. Killol Kaneria, Consultant Cardiologist at Bhailal Amin General Hospital in Vadodara, sheds light on proactive measures individuals can take to safeguard their heart health during the colder months.
Research underscores a concerning surge in heart attacks and strokes during cold spells, more than doubling the risk. The defining factor is the drop in temperature compared to preceding days rather than the absolute coldness, marking a critical period for cardiovascular health.
In response to cold, our cardiovascular system undergoes adjustments to maintain vital organ blood flow. The nervous system triggers vasoconstriction in the skin, fingers, and toes to retain heat.
While this mechanism helps conserve warmth, it places additional stress on the heart, necessitating increased effort to pump blood, leading to heightened heart rate and blood pressure. For those with pre-existing heart conditions, this strain, especially during physical exertion, can precipitate heart symptoms.
Exercise, a natural heart rate accelerator, can exacerbate symptoms for individuals with conditions like angina, particularly in colder months. Cold weather thickens the blood, enhancing its clotting tendency, elevating the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Thus, individuals with heart conditions are advised to stay warm, limit exposure to extreme cold, and opt for indoor exercises.
Hypertensive individuals face challenges in colder periods, with increased blood pressure levels. Recognizing symptoms like persistent headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and unexplained breathing issues is crucial. Regular blood pressure monitoring at home helps detect fluctuations.
Combatting the cold and mitigating cardiovascular risks involves practical strategies. Layering clothing, using draught excluders, maintaining a room temperature of 22°C, consuming warming foods, staying physically active, and limiting exposure to extreme cold are key recommendations. These measures aim to minimize the impact of cold weather on the cardiovascular system, providing a proactive approach to maintaining heart health.
Understanding physiological responses to cold and adopting practical measures to stay warm and active significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events during winter, particularly for those with pre-existing heart conditions or hypertension.
Immediate medical attention is crucial for individuals experiencing symptoms like chest heaviness or persistent headaches during cold weather, as these may indicate worsening cardiac conditions or uncontrolled hypertension.