Winter months are cooler and drops in temperatures do come with health problems such as common cold and flu. A cold environment can impact health, specifically the heart, in ways that most people are unaware of. There are various heart and circulatory problems whose risk is higher during cold weather. Among them, the most common heart problem reported in the winter season is a heart attack.
It is important to be aware of how cold weather can affect the heart, especially if you have been diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease. In this post Dr. Sujay Shad, best heart surgery specialist in Delhi, India and Professor and Senior Consultant of Cardiac Surgery Department at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital shares in detail about the impact of cold weather on heart health and also lists tips to manage heart health during cold weather.
How does cold weather affect the heart?
In case people stay outdoors for prolonged periods in cold weather without enough clothing to keep themselves warm, they can suffer from accidental hypothermia which can damage their cardiac muscles and increase the risk of heart issues. Hypothermia refers to the fall in the core body temperature to below 35°C. It happens usually with children and elderly people when their bodies are unable to produce sufficient energy to stay warm. The symptoms of this condition are mental confusion, lack of coordination, shivering, slowed reactions, and sleepiness.
When one’s body is exposed to a cold environment, one’s body starts making certain adjustments to preserve one’s internal body temperature. For any heart patient, such normal body adjustments could be hard to achieve.
The exposure of the body to cold temperatures can cause blood vessels to constrict or become narrower. As a result, there is minimal loss of heat from the blood which is required to maintain the normal core body temperature.
The narrowing of the blood vessels causes the blood pressure to increase. This leads to harder pumping of the heart so that blood can flow to the constricted blood vessels. Those who have a healthy cardiovascular system do not experience any such problems due to the narrowing of the blood vessels. But, for people who have cardiovascular disease, arteries may get obstructed and they may have heart attacks.
Anyone with cardiovascular disease faces challenges in staying healthy during cold weather. Those suffering from coronary artery disease often have cardiac ischemia- a condition wherein there is insufficient supply of oxygen to the cardiac muscles. This causes them to experience chest pain or discomfort when they are not able to keep their body warm in cold weather or even have heart attacks.
Besides the impact of cold temperatures, the cool and dry winds, rain, and snow during cold weather can all cause the body to lose heat faster. When the heart pumps hard to keep the body warm, one can experience a raised pulse rate.
So, it is important to have proper awareness on heart health, cardiovascular diseases, and ways to take care of your heart to ensure the onset of any type of heart issues. One can get in touch with a heart doctor in Delhi, Dr. Sujay Shad for more details.
Tips To Manage Heart Health in Cold Weather
The first and foremost thing that must be done in cold weather is to try to keep the body warm. With the least exposure of the body to cold weather, the risk of heart problems will be minimal. Therefore, it is important to wear enough clothes that keep the body warm when roaming around in cold weather.
At home, heaters can help in keeping your body warm. It’s risky for one’s health to keep shifting from cold to warm temperature and vice versa and so must be avoided. If having a weak or failing heart, it’s better to consult a heart doctor in Delhi, India e.g. at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and take all necessary suggested measures for proper heart care, keeping cold weather in mind. This includes having a heart-healthy diet as a poor diet may result in unhealthy weight, cholesterol, and changes in blood pressure that all increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks or strokes.
Precautions to Take During Cold Weather by Patients Suffering from Cardiovascular Disease
Although everyone needs to take some precautions to ensure good health when in cold weather, the precautions are necessary, especially for people who already have a heart problem.
The precautions that cardiovascular disease patients must take during the cold winter season include:
- Limit outdoor activities when it’s too cold- It’s better to spend much time indoors than outdoors when the outside environment is too cold. If it is important to go outside, it is advised to layer the body with enough warm clothes. Most importantly, the head, hand, chest, and feet must be properly covered.
- Avoid overexertion- Just being outdoors in cold weather can cause one to over-exert oneself. For instance, when cold wind blows in one’s face, one does brisk walking and exerts oneself more.According to many research studies, snow shovelling is a strenuous physical activity that when done during a snowstorm for a long time can cause the heart to pump harder and increase blood pressure. For people with cardiovascular disease, shovelling or any such overexertion while the body is exposed to cold weather can trigger a cardiac emergency. They can suffer from angina, heart attacks, heart failure, and sudden death. Cardiologists too insist people never shovel snow at all, or if needed only push the snow with a small shovel rather than shovelling wet, deep, or heavy snow.
- Don’t overheat the body- Wearing warm clothes and then indulging in physical activities can overheat the body and make one sweat. In a heart patient, overheating of the body will cause the blood vessels in the body to suddenly dilate or widen, thereby causing low blood pressure/ hypotension. In case you are experiencing sweating, it’s a danger sign for you so you must take rest indoors.
- Get a flu shot- In cold weather, it’s more likely for anyone to have the flu because of the low humid environment outdoors and indoor heating. Catching flu is dangerous for people with cardiovascular disease. Therefore, heart patients must be vaccinated for flu and if they happen to develop any symptoms of flu, they must promptly get the medical attention of a doctor.
- Avoid alcohol consumption before going out in cold weather- Alcohol causes blood thinning. Its intake before exposing the body to cold temperatures can expand the blood vessels present underneath the skin’s surface. This would make you feel warm while heat is being stolen from your vital organs.
Choose Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Top Heart Hospital in Delhi, India
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital is located in Rajendra Nagar, New Delhi. It is one of the best private heart institutions that offer both national and international levels of treatments. It is a multi-specialty hospital, and the majority of patients visit the hospital cardiology department, which is the centre of excellence of this heart hospital in Delhi, India.
If you or your loved ones are experiencing any heart-related condition like chest pain, sudden cardiac arrest, blood clots, congestive heart failure, heart valve disease, atherosclerosis, endocarditis, cardiogenic shock, heart valve problems, heart abnormalities, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, heart attack, heart disease and conditions, arrhythmia, tachycardia, heart defects Marfan syndrome, thoracic trauma, and tracheal stenosis that require surgical intervention, they must immediately consult Dr. Sujay Shad, the best cardiac surgeon in Delhi at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.