Why does the risk of Heart Attack increases in winter? How to avoid getting a heart attack?
The Winter season is a scary time for some people especially for those who have some kind of heart disease, high blood pressure, or abnormal cholesterol levels/deranged lipid profile. Because as the temperature falls, the chances of getting a heart attack increase.
Why heart attack even occurs?
Like any other body organ or tissue, the heart also needs the proper amount of nutrients and oxygen for survival which are supplied by an uninterrupted flow of blood. Whenever due to any reason heart tissue gets deprived of nutrients and oxygen, it starts to die. Dead heart tissue cannot contract. No contraction means no pumping of blood. This is known as a mismatch between supply and demand. Your heart is not getting enough supply of blood according to increased demand.
Why the risk of a heart attack increases in winter?
In winters, when the temperature goes down, the blood vessels inside your body undergo vasoconstriction (they shrink and their lumen becomes narrow) to retain heat. Due to vasoconstriction, the amount of blood going to the heart and other organs decreases. The decrease in lumen size means less blood flow which means less blood supply to the heart.
When the blood supply to the heart decreases, initially it pumps even with more force and it pumps fast so that more blood can reach the heart and other organs. It is a safety mechanism of the body. But the problem here is that since the vessels are narrow (first due to plaque build-up in heart patients and secondly due to vasoconstriction), the heart fails to get enough blood supply but it is working more. That’s how demand-supply mismatch occurs and results in a heart attack.
So what can you do to avoid getting a heart attack in winters?
1. Don’t push your body over its limits.
If you live in an area, where heavy snowfall is common then your risk of getting a heart attack increases even more. Snow usually covers a major portion of the home. You have to clean it to make way for yourself. But if you are already a heart patient or suffering from diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure then don’t even bother picking that shovel to clean the snow. It will only increase the oxygen demand of your heart because you are forcing your weak heart to work even more by exerting or pushing your body over the limit. That will surely increase the risk of getting a heart attack. Hand over the shovel to someone who is not suffering from heart and other medical issues.
2. Stay Home.
As I earlier mentioned how your blood vessels constrict in cold weather so don’t even try to go outside in that cold breeze. Stay home and keep yourself warm.
3. Maintain Hygiene.
Why doc? What hygiene has to do with a heart attack? During the winter season, your risk of getting viral diseases increases. If you get a fever, your heart rate will increase. Increased heart rate means more oxygen demand which is already less due to the narrowing of blood vessels. So it will increase your chances of getting a heart attack.
4. Keep stock of your medicines ready.
Let’s accept this. We all are lazy and we become lazier in winters. Who wants to leave that cozy and warm bed?
Due to extreme weather conditions, sometimes people decide to not visit a pharmacy to get their medicines for heart diseases or diabetes. They sometimes skip their doses which can be dangerous and can result in an episode of a heart attack. In such cases, always keep stock of your essential medicines, or get them delivered online or ask a healthy person from your family or friend circle to get them delivered to you.
5. Have control on those yummy snacks.
People tend to eat a lot of calorie-dense food in winter. Winter and warm yummy delicious food is a perfect combo. But not if you are suffering from heart issues, hypertension, or have deranged blood cholesterol levels. Calorie-dense food will further make your cholesterol level high that will ultimately build up plaque inside your vessels and make them narrower. So control your portion and focus on food that contains a good amount of fiber like vegetables, limit refined carbs, and include fat-free dairy.
6. Maintain some kind of physical activity.
In winters, people tend to stay in bed. Their physical activity decreases. It is wise to keep doing some kind of physical activity. No need to do hardcore exercises which can increase the oxygen demand of your heart. Keep it light and simple like some stretching exercises, yoga, light walk inside your home. But do make sure you stay in a warm environment. Avoid going out in chilled weather to do physical activity.
7. Limit alcohol intake.
You may be having those bad cravings for alcohol in winters but again you have to keep a tight watch over your intake of alcohol, it can always put you at risk for a heart attack.
So follow these measures and your chances of getting a heart attack will decrease drastically.