A top cardiologist reveals why people get more heart attacks in winter

Heart attacks during winter has already been a curse, and this time around, covid-19 is making things worse for cardiac patients.
how to prevent heart attack
A good diet and careful lifestyle choices can improve heart health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Nikita Bhardwaj Published: 18 Dec 2020, 11:10 am IST
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You must think why a particular season is related to heart ailments. To be honest, there is a huge connection. We’ve all heard of people suffering from a heart attack, much more during the winter season, and friends, there is a big reason behind it.

Want to know why winter is an enemy for your heart? We’ll tell you why.  

According to expert, there are major body adjustments during winters 

This is something that our body is tuned to — adjusting itself according to the environment. According to Dr Anjan Siotia, director of cardiology at BM Birla Heart Research Centre, Kolkata, cold weather sometimes creates a perfect storm of risk factors for cardiovascular problems. 

During the winter season, our bodies undergo certain physiological and biological adjustments to function optimally. The oxygen density in the atmosphere drops, and the oxygen demand of our heart increases. 

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“Due to vasoconstriction (narrowing of arteries) and decreased temperature, the flow of blood restricts around the heart, and reduces the amount of oxygen reach to the heart and this ‘demand supply mismatch’ may cause a heart attack,” said Dr Siotia.

“Unfortunately, covid-19 has worsen the impact on the heart,” says Dr Siotia

There have been numerous studies that attest to the fact that even after recovering from covid-19, the virus leaves its traces on organs like lungs, kidney, and heart.

Moreover, covid-19-induced cardiovascular damage affects not only those with severe symptoms, but also people displaying mild to no covid-19 symptoms at all. 

According to Dr Siotia, the heart complications brought on by covid can occur in anyone infected with the virus, not necessarily just patients who were hospitalised or have pre-existing heart conditions

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“Covid-19 studies have shown that myocardial injury, irrespective of the nature of the cardiac enzymes elevation, is associated with a higher risk for death and abnormal heart rhythms. Inflammation of the heart tissues (Myocarditis), possibly due to direct viral infection of the myocardium and vascular endothelium is one among the major cardiac complications in covid-19. Collection of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) is seen rarely as a complication,” suggests Dr Siotia.

“You need to be watchful of the symptoms of heart attacks,” warned Dr Siotia 

“ Acute chest pain is the most common warning sign of heart attacks. Symptoms can vary between men and women. While men occasionally report nausea or dizziness, women are significantly more likely to experience atypical symptoms, sometimes leading them to disregard the signs,” she reveals.

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No one is immune from getting a heart attack, especially, if they have an unhealthy lifestyle 

“It is not possible to predict who will get a heart attack and when. Nobody is completely immune from this disease, and it is a fact that any of us can get a heart attack anytime, even after taking medications or after undergoing bypass surgery or angioplasty,” says Dr Siotia. 

She adds, “We can, however, reduce our risk of having a heart attack by adopting a healthy lifestyle, and taking medications when necessary. There is usually no single reason for a heart attack. There are multiple risk factors and one has to address them together. There are non- modifiable risk factors for heart ailments like increasing age, male sex and a family history of heart problems. One cannot do anything about it.” 

One can however, address the modifiable risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, weight management, regular exercise, healthy diet and managing stress. By consuming nutritious food, and exercising regularly, one can maintain healthy body weight. This will not only help in the control of diabetes, BP and cholesterol, but will also reduce the risk of getting heart problems. 

Smoking and consumption of tobacco is a major health risk, and it must be completely done away with to reduce cardiac risk. Last but not the least, stress is a major concern in modern societies, and with increasing competition, this seems to be not only getting worse, but also impacting several young people. Inculcating good habits at an early age will help a long way in reducing one’s risk of cardiac issues. 

Dr Siotia wants you to follow these tips: 

1. People with weak hearts should be particularly careful during the winter season, they should continue to exercise regularly and modify their timings to avoid this extreme weather.

2. Taking natural antioxidants may help keep the heart healthy. Also, salt and water intake should be reduced, as there is no water loss due to sweating in winter.

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3. Patients recovering from covid-19 who exhibit symptoms like increasing or extreme shortness of breath with exertion, swelling of the ankles chest pain, heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, not being able to lie flat without shortness of breath, waking up at night short of breath, lightheadedness or dizzy spells should immediately consult their physician or a cardiologist.

“Just remember that proper exercise, a balanced diet, regular health checkups, managing stress, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and avoiding smoking are key factors for a healthy heart,” concludes Dr Siotia.

So ladies, don’t think being young makes you safe. Start taking small steps today for yourself and your family to keep everyone’s heart in its best shape.

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About the Author

Six-pack abs are all that Nikita needs, along with her daily dose of green tea. At Health Shots, she produces videos, podcasts, stories, and other kick-ass content. ...Read More

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