Winter Care for Cardio Vascular System

Dr Arvind Kohli

All of us adore the winter season. Those who embrace it know what makes it so wonderful. According to Ayurveda, winter is the season in which there is inherent immunity boost up. Cold weather leads to decreased body temperature, and the body undergoes thermoregulation to adjust to new climate. But for all its glories, winter can also bring a certain element of danger to our lives, particularly when it comes to our cardiovascular system, and it’s important to appreciate both the benefits and risks of this chilly season.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease(DVT) and other conditions. More than four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age.
During winter, it’s important to know the effects of cold weather on body, and the risks for cardiovascular health. one of the primary reasons is our body’s physiology and how a drop in temperature impacts the heart. “The body’s biological state gets hampered by activating the sympathetic nervous system which in turn narrows the blood vessels present in our body. This is known as ‘vasoconstriction’. During this process, the blood pressure levels increase as they stress the heart to pump blood to various parts of the body.
“In the colder months, there can be a wide difference in temperatures, and the heat produced to keep your biological systems warmer can pose a risk in extreme conditions and cause ‘hypothermia’, which can damage the heart’s blood vessels
The cold can also cause changes to blood rheology that may increase the risk of developing blood clots, which could lead to a heart attack or Brain stroke. It has been noticed that there is an increase in heart attacks by around 50% during the harsh season. A statistically significant positive correlation was also found between both air pressure and humidity and the incidence of PE.(Pulmonary Embolism] It has been found that wind speed and temperature were significantly associated with seasonal peak of DVT.
How does cold weather affect the
Cardio Vascular System
Many people aren’t conditioned to the physical stress of vigorous outdoor activities and don’t know the potential dangers of being outdoors in Cold weather, especially a very rapid change in the weather, is more likely to cause blood vessels to constrict. If a person is already having have narrowing of the blood vessels because of underlying heart disease these blood vessels are constricted further, it restricts the amount of blood that’s getting to vital organs In other words, cold weather can make heart attack more likely to happen .Instead of triggering a full-blown heart attack, cold weather can also just minimize blood flow to the heart, causing chest pain (angina), which is a symptom of coronary artery disease. This is the main form of heart disease, a disorder of the blood vessels of the heart that can lead to heart attack.
In addition to coronary artery disease, cold weather can put a strain on . heart and circulatory system, affecting other forms of cardiovascular disease, too. cold weather may also increase the risk of ischemic stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. Ischemic stroke – the most common type of stroke – occurs when ruptured arterial plaque causes a blood clot to block a blood vessel to the brain, cutting off its much needed blood and oxygen supply. Sudden bouts of energetic activity, such as rushing around to get out of the cold or shoveling snow, in combination with chilly temperatures can put additional strain on thecoronary and carotid blood vessels that feed . heart or brain. This puts a person at greater risk of having a cardiovascular event,
Symptoms of heart attack include uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in chest (angina) or other areas of body and shortness of breath.
Stroke symptoms to watch out for include facial drooping, especially on one side, arm weakness, and difficulty in speaking or slurred speech
What should heart patients keep in mind?
For those already suffering from heart-related issues, the danger having a cardiovascular event is more imminent. The heart must work more to maintain a balance in temperatures and since oxygen requirements surge, it can trigger heart attack in severe cases.Further
Patients diagnosed with poor heart function pose a more severe risk of fluid accumulation in the lungs; this can cause issues where the person may find it hard to breathe normally. Also, since respiratory illnesses are pretty common during this period, they can put more stress by increasing the overall heart rate for more oxygen
Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy
Its important to keep the body warm by wearing sweaters, jackets, and warmers to help the body regulate body temperature more effectively.
It is essential to refrain from excessive intake of alcohol or smoking.
In winters, people crave for cholesterol-rich foods that can hamper heart health; a balanced diet should be taken.
It is vital to monitor all factors that can hinder body’s functions and aggravate cardiac issues. like control of diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
Avoid walks during chilly mornings
Cold mornings without sun are not the best time to have a walk for heart patients. Blood pressure can naturally spike in mornings which holds a greater risk of heart attack. It is also advisable to take walks during evenings in the mild sun. One should also take break during the walks. however it is essential to get some vitamin D naturally so whenever possible enjoy the mellow sunshine of winter
Stick to your exercise routine
Cold weathers tend to make one lethargic. However, it is necessary to stick to your regular exercise routine without changing it. Making changes in your exercise can cause disharmony in the natural rhythm of the body and can affect heart. But it is important to select the best time for your workouts It is also important to warm-up before working out to avoid stressing
Regular Medication and Nutrition
It is important to indulge in healthy food and avoid fried food especially during winters. It is also vital to eat the meals at regular time and not go hungry. berries, flaxseeds, nuts, dark chocolate, legumes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and veggies like spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, broccoli are some of the foods that are good for the heart. Its advisable to reduce . intake of salt, which gets accumulated in the body due to less sweating. This puts extra load on the heart.
Similarly, it is important to take the right kind of medications and not to skip them especially rheology regulators Also, don’t forget to drink water to maintain proper hydration
De Stressing
Stressing and winter are not a good combination for your heart. It is important for heart patients to avoid stressful situations at any given time, but this becomes extremely important during winter. Whether it is work stress or personal problems, it is important to deal with things positively and stay happy.
Cold weather can increase risk of cardiovascular events Everyone should be aware of the . . importance of regular physical activity and keeping one self warm. One of the best things one can do for your heart this winter is to follow up with your primary care physician, cardiologist, or other medical provider to assess your personal risk of heart issues. If you have previously suffered a heart attack, transient Ischemic attacks(TIA)or have been diagnosed with any number of conditions that increase your risk of experiencing a heart attack or a brain stroke, you need to take more caution than usual in the winter months.
(The author is Cardio Vascular Surgeon SSH GMC Jammu)