Winter Heart Attack

Equipping ourselves with basic information about causes and symptoms of winter heart attack can avoid any serious complications
Representational Image
Representational Image Pixabay [Creative Commons]

DR. HAMEEM MUSHTAQ

The commencement of winters in Kashmir can provoke a variety of bodily responses; some people enjoy it because as they have been longing for it, while others become apprehensive about its arrival due to various economic and health issues.

While maximum people worry around catching the flu or getting frostbite. There is another issue, though many individuals may not even be aware of.

During winter, lower temperature can cause constriction of blood vessels, thereby elevating blood pressure, increasing  the risk of heart attack and stroke.

It is quite clear through ample amount of available literature that the chances of heart attacks increase during winters by about more than 30%. It goes without saying that people must take the necessary precautions to stay warm throughout the winter.

Elders, in particular, are susceptible during winters because cold can cause intense drop in their body temperature, causing hypothermia which in turn can lead to severe damage to heart muscle.

Moreover, people suffering from Angina need to be extra vigilant as cold weather conditions during winter can result in constriction of coronary arteries, leading to elevated levels of blood pressure, limiting blood flow and reduced supply of oxygen to the heart, which can ultimately lead to heart attack.    

Winter months also bring some behavioural changes including lower physical activity and weight gain which contribute to high probability of heart complications.

Furthermore, the emotional stress during winter, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can increase levels of stress hormones, thereby, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

In addition to these factors, numerous studies have suggested that strenuous exertion (such as snow shovelling) in the days following heavy snowfalls is associated with increased cardiac events.

Such strenuous exercise and colder temperatures have been associated with changes in blood rheology including increased platelet activation, increased fibrinogen, and increased viscosity, and hazardous effect on blood pressure. It is possible that a combination of these factors may trigger an acute cardiac event.

Several individuals (people with previous history of heart attacks, people who suffer from any heart disease, people with high blood pressure, people with high cholesterol, people with sedentary lifestyle and smokers) are at a greater risk of suffering a heart attack.

Knowing that the risk of heart attack is greater during winters, therefore, equipping ourselves with basic information about causes and symptoms of winter heart attack could assist us to maintain healthy lifestyle and to avoid any serious complications.

A heart attack may produce a variety of signs and symptoms, differently in males and females. In males, it mostly occurs with a pain in the chest that radiates down to the left arm.

It may come across as a muscle pull, and may last more than a few minutes, fluctuating in intensity. Females may experience symptoms like excessive fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, jaw pain, and nausea. So, any person with the above signs and symptoms must consult any cardiologist at the earliest.

However, it is pertinent to mention that every chest pain may not be a sign of heart attack, rather chest pain may also occur due to conditions like indigestion, muscle pull, etc. but health check and preventive measures (eating healthy, staying active, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol consumption, perform warmup before snow shovelling, snow shovelling, if necessary, must be carried out in intervals, etc.) are must.

Disclaimer: The information included in the article is for educational and awareness purpose only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

Dr. Hameem Mushtaq is a faculty at Department of Zoology, Central University of Kashmir

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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