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HomeHEALTHDoes winter worsen the chances of a heart attack?

Does winter worsen the chances of a heart attack?

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heart attack

A healthy heart pumps blood to all parts of the body. If the heart fails to pump blood at the desired level, fluid tends to accumulate in the lungs and other parts of the body with decreased blood supply to vital organs like the kidney and brain – this is known as a heart attack. The burden of heart attack or heart failure is estimated to be 23 million worldwide. In India, 1 in every 1,000 people is estimated to suffer from a heart attack – mostly during winter.

Diminished heart function can be due to heart attack (blockage of oxygen-rich blood flow to a part of the heart), infections of the heart, muscular heart disease, valvular problems, arrhythmias (too fast / too slow/irregular beating of the heart), alcohol intake, high blood pressure and associated lung problems.

Studies show that hospitalisation rates of heart failure patients are higher during the winter season. Extreme cold weather causes peripheral vasoconstriction which leads to increased load on the heart worsening heart failure. Other risk factors for heart failure, especially in winters include air pollution and lack of perspiration.

Heart failure can present as shortness of breath, sudden weight gain, swollen ankles, inability to sleep flat at night, feeling one’s own heartbeat, and feeling very tired. Baseline investigations include ECG, 2D Echo, chest X-ray, blood tests for kidney and liver function like serum creatinine, blood urea, LFT and thyroid function tests.

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Measures to prevent acute exacerbation of heart failure in general and in winter include:

  • Take prescribed medicines regularly, even if you are feeling fine
  • Keep blood pressure under check
  • Monitor weight
  • Limit salt intake – It’s ideal to take 2,300 mg of sodium per day – equivalent to 1 tsp of salt.
  • Avoid pickles and junk food will help cut down salt intake as they have high NA+ content.
  • Consume fresh fruits and vegetables with a regular balanced diet is vital
  • Reduce fluid intake to 1.5- 2 litres per day
  • Avoid smoking, tobacco chewing
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine intake
  • Exercise regularly as advised by the doctor and not to over-exercise as it leads to pressure on the heart
  • Exposure to early morning sunlight
  • Manage stress by yoga and meditation
  • Avoid pain killers like NSAIDs which worsen heart failure
  • Protect self from winter ailments like common cold, cough, flu, influenza and pneumococcal vaccination to prevent pneumonia.
  • Pay close attention to symptoms of heart attack, report to the doctor immediately in case of significant symptoms, and keeping a list of all medicines and taking the doctor’s advice on dosage adjustment is very important.

“When the heart is at ease, the body is healthy”

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Dr. Suresh Gude
Dr. Suresh Gude
Dr Suresh Gude is working as a Consultant in cardiology at Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad. He is one of the most established cardiologists in the region with experience in cardiology and diagnostic angiography


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