When we think of winter, we immediately think of colds, sore throats, coughs and influenza. In fact, the cold season can be associated with a series of problems that go beyond the respiratory system and can have an impact on the cardiovascular system. It is important to know how to protect your heart in winter.
It is common knowledge that there are diseases, such as respiratory diseases, which are more frequent in winter. On the other hand, less is known about the impact of the cold season on chronic diseases. In other words, in diabetes and cardiovascular disease, for example.
Why can the cold weather be dangerous for the heart?
Excessive cold, especially when associated with adverse weather conditions, can worsen the risk of stroke, angina pectoris, and myocardial infarction in people with cardiovascular disease.
The reason for this is that, in cold environments, our bodies make physiological adjustments to preserve body temperature: heart rate and blood pressure increase, while blood vessels constrict. And these adjustments can be challenging for people with heart disease.
At the same time, cardiovascular disease increases the risk of complications resulting from the flu.
A 2018 study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the risk of having a heart attack was six times higher in the week after having the flu. And this is especially true in elderly cardiovascular patients.
Additionally, a study of more than 80,000 adults hospitalised for influenza in the US, between 2010 and 2017, found that cardiac complications occur one in eight hospitalised patients with influenza, or in about 12% of patients.
According to these studies, viral infections put the body under stress, affecting cardiac function. At the same time, the inflammatory state resulting from an influenza virus infection can lead to rupture of atherosclerotic plaques, with subsequent thrombus formation.
What we need to do to protect the heart in winter
While we all need to take precautions in cold environments, protecting the heart in winter is essential, especially in the case of cardiovascular disease:
▪ Wear suitable clothing. Wear various warm items of clothing. Wear a hat, gloves and warm socks and shoes.
▪ Do not exert excessive efforts. This is a recommendation for any season, but protecting the heart becomes even more important in winter. Remember that simply remaining in the cold is a strain on the body.
▪ Don’t overheat your body. Wearing warm clothing and then engaging in physical activity (even if it’s just a walk) can lead to hyperthermia. A high body temperature causes blood vessel to suddenly dilate. If you’re out in the cold and sweating, it’s because your body is overheating. Consider sweating a danger sign and slow down.
▪ Get the flu vaccination. Having the flu is dangerous for anyone with heart disease. People with cardiovascular disease can be vaccinated free of charge. Contact your local Health Centre for information.
It is with a very warm heart that we wish you a Happy Christmas and a Healthier New Year.
Article submitted by the HPA Health Group